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Selected Publication:

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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2021

Authors: Karl, S; Sladky, R; Lamm, C; Huber, L

Title: Neural Responses of Pet Dogs Witnessing Their Caregiver's Positive Interactions with a Conspecific: An fMRI Study.

Source: Cereb Cortex Commun. 2021; 2(3):tgab047

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Huber Ludwig
Karl Sabrina

Vetmed Research Units
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition

Project(s): Convergent evolution of the social brain? A comparative dog-human fMRI approach

We have limited knowledge on how dogs perceive humans and their actions. Various researchers investigated how they process human facial expressions, but their brain responses to complex social scenarios remain unclear. While undergoing fMRI, we exposed pet dogs to videos showing positive social and neutral nonsocial interactions between their caregivers and another conspecific. Our main interest was how the dogs responded to their caregivers (compared to a stranger) engaging in a pleasant interaction with another dog that could be seen as social rival. We hypothesized that the dogs would show activation increases in limbic areas such as the amygdala, hypothalamus, and insula and likely show higher attention and arousal during the positive caregiver-dog interaction. When contrasting the social with the nonsocial interaction, we found increased activations in the left amygdala and the insular cortex. Crucially, the dogs' hypothalamus showed strongest activation when the caregiver engaged in a positive social interaction. These findings indicate that dogs are sensitive to social affective human-dog interactions and likely show higher valence attribution and arousal in a situation possibly perceived as a potential threat to their caregiver bonds. Our study provides a first window into the neural correlates of social and emotional processing in dogs.© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press.

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