Researchers at Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE) in Budapest discovered new insights into the neural processing of auditory information. For the first time, they applied a non-invasive EEG method (based on human methods) to investigate how dogs process different auditory signals and found differences in the responses to human and canine sounds.
In a recent study, humans are usually able to tell the sounds apart based on the species they originated. But can dogs do that? Researchers from the Department of Ethology at Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE) have undertaken to investigate the brain processes responsible for species differentiation.
"We played a variety of human and dog vocalizations to lying and alert dogs while recording their brain activity using non-invasive EEG," said Hungarian scientists. This new EEG technique was recently developed by Hungarian researchers based on human procedures and is completely pain-free for the individuals, contrary to many other EEG methods used in animal studies.
The 17 family dogs participating in the study were encouraged only by positive reinforcement (treats, praises), while the researchers applied electrodes to specific points on their head and presented them with non-verbal human and dog vocalizations of positive or neutral valence. Dog vocalizations varied from laughter (positive) to yawning and coughing, while playful barks (positive) were panting and sniffing.
According toHuba Eleod, the dog brain is able to regulate the vocalizations of the two species differently in dogs. This is the first time this form in dogs has been detected in this form, according to the Department of Ethology and ELTE. "In addition, this differentiation effect occurs very soon, at 250 milliseconds, so the neural processing of human and dog sounds diverges already a quarter of a second after the initialization of the sound.
Another significant observation is the difference between the brain responses to positive and neutral vocalizations depending on the species, according toMarta Gacsi, the principal investigator of the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group. So we have been able to experimentally demonstrate that the dogs brain also responds to the emotional content of their sounds."
According to Anna Balint, the foundation for these findings is that by using this technology, we can gain insight into further details of our four-legged friends'' neural functions and how they interpret the acoustic signals of the world surrounding them.