If we influence the evolution of other species, we should act responsibly. Dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years. Around the same time, we domesticated and turned them from frightening wild wolves into obedient tail-waggers.
Dogs are also one of the most varied species in the animal kingdom, thanks to our breeding activities. But not only that, a new study that scans dogs’ brains also shows profound changes when they live next to humans:
We’ve changed the structure of the dog’s brain, turning them from predators into a loyal friend.
The discovery was discovered by Erin Hecht, a neuroscientist at Harvard University when she and her colleague gathered a collection of MRI brain scans of 62 purebred dogs of 33 different breeds.
No scientist has ever collected such a database before and has gone in this direction. Therefore, as soon as the images are placed next to each other, “you can immediately see the results in your eyes,” Hecht said.
Dogs from more than thirty different breeds, of course, come in many shapes and sizes of skulls. But none of them could explain the difference in the layout of their brains.
Hecht and her team have identified six networks and brain regions that tend to be different from dog to dog. They are networks associated with certain functions, such as olfactory or motor.
Each dog purebred for different purposes develops different brain regions differently.
For example, boxer dogs and Dobermans, often used as police dogs, have a highly developed visual and olfactory network. Dogs bred to compete in sports show changes in the brain’s network responsible for fear, stress and anxiety responses. Shepherd dogs get their agility and speed thanks to the developing motor brain area.
Living with humans for 15,000 years, the dog’s brain has been transformed by us.
It is the human training that changes the hunting dog’s brain, rather than their natural predatory instincts.
“Brain anatomy characteristics vary among dog breeds, some of which are undoubtedly due to human action in selective breeding and training dogs with specific behaviors such as hunting, grazing or protect cattle, “said Hecht.
She takes a prime example of hunting dogs trained in two different styles: using sight or smell to detect prey. If you grow naturally, you will think that olfactory predators will have an olfactory brain region developing.
But the results of the MRI scan do not show that but indicate an extremely relevant model of human training. Scent-hunting dogs show that the brain area and understanding are very developed.
Hecht explained: “I have heard dog training instructors say that you don’t need to train a dog to smell. Instead, you just need to train them to report on the scent. there”.
This proves it is the training that changes the hound’s brain, rather than its hunting instinct.
“This is a very interesting new study,” said psychologist Daniel Horschler from the University of Arizona. Horschler has previously studied the evolution of the dog brain, but he confirmed that this research is the first findings showing the correlation between dog brain structure and the behavior in their tasks are determined. shaped by human.
We’ve changed the animals around us, and with dogs, the effects on their brain structure are profoundly profound changes, Hecht said. Thinking about it brings a sense of responsibility.
If we influence the life and evolution of other creatures, Hecht thinks we should do it under a clear sense of responsibility.
Hecht himself also raised two small Australian shepherd dogs. “The dogs here with me, as well as their ancestors, lived with my ancestors. It’s a deep, strange and wonderful connection,” she said.
But man is also a single creature living in a moment of history. If we influence the life and evolution of other creatures, Hecht thinks we should do it under a clear sense of responsibility.
“I think our research is a call to respond when we do that when we treat animals like we are still treating them,” Hecht said.
Her new research is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Source: Science, Washingtonpost