Although you may not believe it, dogs have a conscience and feelings, and a study done with a brain scanner has shown it.
Can Dogs Have Feelings? Am I able to feel empathy? What we think we know about animals is constantly changing.
The conscience of animals
Both the scientific community and the legal world refused to accept the fact that animals were beings who feel and suffer like people. Since not much was known about their minds, they chose to ignore this topic.
This decision, however, does not correspond to the way the citizenry views animals. Animal rights associations, as well as political parties, firmly believe in their emotional intelligence.
In Spain, for example, the Congress of Deputies approved this December 2017 that dogs are considered beings with rights, and not material goods. Little by little the perception we have of our furry friends and their way of thinking is changing. One of the most recent discoveries concerns dogs.
Brain scanner: the key to discovering dog feelings
The notion that animals could have feelings had not yet been considered until ten years ago. Neuroscientist Gregory Berns of Emory University decided to focus his efforts on finding out if dogs could feel emotions. His idea was to train some dogs to be able to subject them to an MRI scanner.
Berns scanned the brains of these animals to see how they responded to the different stimuli presented to them. The results appeared in his book What It’s Like to Be a Dog .
A study published in the journal Science previously stated that dogs are able to process information in a similar way to humans. During this experiment, it was proved that their left hemisphere reacted to words, while the right one did so according to the intonation with which they were pronounced.
The story of Callie, the first specimen submitted to the study
Callie, a female crossed with a Terrier who was in an animal shelter, was adopted by Berns. He did not choose her for any particular reason; Callie was curious and, like the rest of the Terriers, she was full of energy.
First, Berns decided to build a simulator in his home to accustom the animal to the typical noises emitted by scanners in hospitals. In order to do this, he recorded the sounds that the magnets of these machines made, and reproduced them in his home while playing with Callie.
The noises of the device, initially, were emitted at a very low volume, which Berns gradually raised; the process lasted between two and three months, and was easier than expected. Thanks to this first success, many specimens joined the project.
Dogs and people have a similar caudate nucleus
The caudate nucleus is a structure present in the deepest of the hemispheres celebrating them. It is a common element in all species, especially in mammals, and is essential for the reception of dopamine.
The caudate nucleus is activated when the subject reaches the so-called “anticipation phase”: once the information is received, a decision-making process will be produced through which it is determined how to act based on it. If it is something positive, this phase will be very intense.
This brain structure is activated in the same way in both dogs and people, and under the same conditions. The clear differences in size (the dog’s brain is the size of a lemon) mean that animals don’t have the same abilities as humans.
Can dogs love us?
In the experiment, the dogs were shown two objects. They have been trained to identify one of these by food, and the other by the appearance of their master who exclaims “Bravo!” Some dogs preferred the former, others the latter.
There is no categorical answer to this question. The type of relationship a dog has with his owner will make a difference.