Dog owners, for years, have sworn that the allegiance and devotion of their pets was driven by love, not by the packet of sausages they have in the treat box. Now they've got science to tell them the truth.
An Emory University neuroscientist, using a MRI machine has scanned the brains of dogs with the goal of finding out what they're thinking - and it turns out those puppy kisses aren't just a ploy to get more milk bones, they actually are love!
Gregory Berns oversaw the experiment after the death of his own dog, whom he loved dearly. The tests were done on 90 dogs after they'd been adjusted to the sounds of an MRI for months to make sure they were no longer scared of the sound, first determined that canine pre-frontal lobe activity was similar to that in humans. In other words, they use the same parts of their brains for problem solving as we do.
With that established, Berns gave dogs hot dogs and praise at different times, then compared the neurological responses.
"When we compared their responses and looked at the rewards centre of their brains, the vast number of dogs responded to praise and food equally," he said. "Now, about 20 percent had stronger responses to praise than to food. From that, we conclude that the vast majority of dogs love us at least as much as food." The test also found dogs were wired to recognise faces.
The science behind doggy human relationships is quite simple. When we gaze into our dog's adorable eyes a chemical called "oxytocin" is released which is responsible for the feeling of love and affection meaning your dog is truly filling you full of love. But as it turns out, this happens the other way round as well. Dog's who have an emotional bond with a person, release oxytocin when gazing into your eyes; This means your dog finds you as irresistibly loveable as you find them!
The study, beside giving comfort to any dog lover, could also be important in helping to train service dogs, says Berns, as scan show which puppies are the best candidates (and, thus, could be less expensive to train.)
As for cats? Their brains remain a mystery.