Multi-dog study points to canine brain's reward center

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | Dec. 11, 2013

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Tigger, a Boston terrier that was one of 13 dogs in the study.

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After capturing the first brain images of two alert, unrestrained dogs last year, researchers at Emory University have confirmed their methods and results by replicating them in an experiment involving 13 dogs.

The research, published by the Public Library of Science One (PLOS One), showed that most of the dogs had a positive response in the caudate region of the brain when given a hand signal indicating they would receive a food treat, as compared to a different hand signal for "no treat."

"Our experiment last year was really a proof of concept, demonstrating that dogs could be trained to undergo successful functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)," says the lead researcher Gregory Berns, director of Emory’s Center for Neuropolicy. "Now we’ve shown that the initial study wasn’t a fluke: Canine fMRI is reliable and can be done with minimal stress to the dogs. We have laid the foundation for exploring the neural biology and cognitive processes of man’s best, and oldest, friend."

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