Squirrel! Dog MRI study reveals canines really CAN understand some of what their owners say

Mail Online | 10/15/2018 | Mark Prigg For Dailymail.com
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While many dogs owners think their pets really do understand them, a new study has found they really do have a 'rudimentary' understands of words.

It could help explain the 'squirrel phenomenon' where dogs instantly perk up, become agigated and even start hunting for squirrels when their owner tells them one is close by.

Researchers - Canine - Brain

However, researchers have been unclear what is actually happening in the canine brain - and how much they really understand.

'Many dog owners think that their dogs know what some words mean, but there really isn't much scientific evidence to support that,' says Ashley Prichard, a PhD candidate in at Emory's University and first author of the study.

Data - Dogs - Owner - Reports

'We wanted to get data from the dogs themselves - not just owner reports.'

The study, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, used brain imaging to probe how dogs process words they have been taught to associate with objects.

Results - Dogs - Representation - Words - Words

The results suggest that dogs have at least a rudimentary neural representation of meaning for words they have been taught, differentiating words they have heard before from those they have not.

'We know that dogs have the capacity to process at least some aspects of human language since they can learn to follow verbal commands,' adds Emory neuroscientist Gregory Berns, senior author of the study.

Research - Dogs - Cues - Command - Gaze

'Previous research, however, suggests dogs may rely on many other cues to follow a verbal command, such as gaze, gestures and even emotional expressions from their owners.'

The Emory researchers focused on questions surrounding the brain mechanisms dogs use to differentiate between words, or even what constitutes a word to a dog.

Results - Activation - Regions - Brain - Novel

The results showed greater activation in auditory regions of the brain to the novel pseudowords relative to the trained words.

'We expected to see that dogs neurally discriminate between words that they know and words that they don't,' Prichard says....
(Excerpt) Read more at: Mail Online
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