New insights have been gained into the neural processing of auditory information in dogs, revealed by researchers at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest. In their new study published in the journal Royal Society Open Sciencethey used a non-invasive EEG paradigm (based on human methods) to study how dogs process different auditory signals and found differences in responses to human and canine sounds for the first time.
By hearing the voices of two different and familiar species, we humans are usually able to distinguish sounds based on the species they come from. But can dogs do that? Researchers from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) set out to detect the brain processes responsible for species differentiation in a recently published study.
“We played various human and canine vocalizations to lying and alert dogs while recording their brain activity using a noninvasive EEG,” said Anna Bálint, member of the comparative ethology research group MTA-ELTE – “This new EEG methodology was recently developed by Hungarian researchers based on human procedures and is completely painless for the subjects, unlike many other paradigms EEGs used in animal studies.”
The 17 family dogs in the study were only motivated by positive reinforcement (treats, praise), while the researchers applied electrodes to specific points on their heads and presented them with non-verbal human and canine vocalizations. of positive or neutral valence. Human vocalizations ranged from laughing (positive) to yawning and coughing (neutral), while dog vocalizations ranged from playful barking (positive) to panting and sniffling (neutral).
“Analysis of recorded EEG signals showed that the dog’s brain processes the vocalizations of the two species differently. This is the first time it has been detected in this form in dogs,” explained Huba Eleőd, PhD student at the Department of Ethology, ELTE. “Furthermore, this differentiation effect occurs very early, at 250 milliseconds, so that neural processing of human and canine sounds already diverges a quarter of a second after the sound begins.”
“Another important finding is the difference between brain responses to positive and neutral vocalizations across species,” pointed out Marta Gacsi, principal investigator of the MTA-ELTE comparative ethology research group. “We were therefore able to show experimentally that the brains of dogs also react to the emotional content of the sounds they hear.”
“The main merit of these findings is that by using this methodology, we can gain insight into new details about the neural functions of our four-legged friends and how they process acoustic cues from the world around them,” concluded Anna Balint.
Reference: Bálint A, Eleőd H, Magyari L, Kis A, Gácsi M. Differences in event-related potentials of dogs in response to human and canine vocal stimuli; a non-invasive study. Royal Society Open Science. 9(4):211769. do I:10.1098/rsos.211769
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