A recent study conducted by two professors at Emory University looked into just how the brains of dogs work, specifically. The study was conducted on just two dogs in particular, but according to the paper they published, they learned quite a bit about the thought process of dogs.
It turns out that we are a little closer to opening up this course of study and seeing a glimpse of just how dogs and cats think…how their brainwaves work, essentially.
How do the brains of our cats and dogs work?
Have you ever looked at your cat or dog looking out the window? I mean really looked at them…you know, observed them as he or she watch a bird zipping by in the sky, low enough to see, a big truck passing, shaking even the hardwood floor of your flat, maybe even a mysterious stranger passes by the busy city street below.
Haven’t you ever wondered what they’re thinking at those random moments? I have, and as it turns out, others have as well. In fact, many dedicate their lives to figuring out how animals think.
As pet owners, we like to put ourselves in the shoes, or rather paws, of our animals, or at least we all should. After all, it makes us better caregivers to them, and as it turns out, we still haven’t even scratched the surface yet as to just how the brains of our dear animals work—specifically dogs and cats in this case.
But as it turns out, there are studies that are trying to solve this mystery, and in the end these studies can only help us become better at being their most trusted friends and guides through this world…although I sometimes get the feeling that they’re guiding us.
Dogs were looked into specifically in a study conducted by Gregory Berns, professor of psychology at Emory University. Here’s some of what he found:
"“We showed that we can monitor the activity in a dog’s brain while it is watching a video and, to at least a limited degree, reconstruct what it is looking at…The fact that we are able to do that is remarkable…I began to wonder, ‘Can we apply similar techniques to dogs?’…”via CTV"
The whole reason for the study in its earliest stage at Emory was all because of the search for Osama Bin Laden; dogs were used in that search…a specific dog in actual fact, was on the Seal team that was actually assigned that particular mission, as they are for search and rescue missions all over, as we’ve seen before….
The videos in question were filmed specifically for the study and in them, the dog can see humans petting dogs, or interacting with them in usual ways. They monitored the dog’s neural data as they watched the video. And what did they learn by doing this? Professor Gregory Berns’ comments continue below:
"“There are 10 times as many nouns as there are verbs in the English language because we have a particular obsession with naming objects. Dogs appear to be less concerned with who or what they are seeing and more concerned with the action itself…Animals have to be very concerned with things happening in their environment to avoid being eaten or to monitor animals they might want to hunt. Action and movement are paramount.”via CTV (link above)"
We often don’t think of our loveable dogs as hunters or how they would fare in the wild, but at their base they are animals, and instinct for survival is a main focus of theirs from moment to moment.
Hence why they jump at loud noises, bark at the aforementioned mysterious stranger, etc.. Erin Phillips, co-author of the study conducted at Emory University, had this to say on the experiment:
"“While our work is based on just two dogs, it offers proof of concept that these methods work on canines…I hope this paper helps pave the way for other researchers to apply these methods on dogs, as well as on other species, so we can get more data and bigger insights into how the minds of different animals work.”via CTV (link above)"
And what about our cats?
According to a piece at fearfreehappyhomes.com, cats are actually ranked as being one of the smartest animals out there. Remember that next time you watch the furry little creatures of yours chasing a ball of yarn and running into the closet door absentmindedly. Their brains are actually quite complex.
According to the same piece, cats are capable of learning to do something specifically by watching us do certain actions first, and those memories last up to 10 years for these incredible animals.
Think of it…how many times have you seen your kitten paw the cupboard door where you keep his or her food? More times than you can count, right? Well, that’s because he or she remembered you doing so when feeding time came around; this is known as ‘procedural memory.’
A massive portion of this response of theirs is actually based on emotion as well, according to the study…which makes them even more like humans in that way. For example a traumatic experience or something they didn’t like will keep them from ever doing something again.
This is why so many cats fear water…. We’d need to figure out what their first time in or around water was like to see why they don’t like it at all and would rather bath themselves, thank you very much.
In conclusion (wow, I haven’t said that since term papers in college…anyways, I’ll stick with it…): In conclusion, the piece states that when it comes to cats and how their brains work specifically, we’ve certainly learned a lot but we haven’t at all even begun to scratch the surface, but rest assured, they take in new info all the time and are very capable of combining it with what they already know, which is obviously a lot.
They are very perceptive; I’ve written about this before…they can pick up on the ailments that humans can be afflicted with; they can stay away from a certain food just by smelling it, knowing it won’t go well in their systems….
So next time you see your kitten staring at you if you’re doing something a little foolish, and you imagine him or her shaking their heads at you and perhaps muttering ‘foolish human,’ well, that might just be the case.
Any interesting things your pets do that shows you a little insight into how their brains work?