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Dogs can understand human speech, scientists discover
« on: August 31, 2016, 08:54:40 PM »
Brain scans discover evidence that dogs process language in a similar way to humans and are only truly happy if a praising tone of voice is matched by the actual words spoken

Ian Johnston
Science Correspondent
6 hours  ago
   
      
mridogs - Dogs can understand human speech, scientists discover - Science and Research
Dogs, seen here around an MRI scanner, appear to having an understanding of some human words
Eniko Kubinyi



Dogs understand what some human words mean, according to a study published in the prestigious journal Science.

In a world-first experiment, academics in Hungary trained 13 dogs to voluntarily lie in an MRI scanner to monitor what happened in their brain when the researchers spoke to them.

They discovered that dogs’ brains process language in a similar way to humans, with the right side dealing with emotion and the left processing meaning.

It was only when both sides of the brain agreed they were hearing praise that the dog was truly happy.

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Re: Dogs can understand human speech, scientists discover
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2016, 08:56:19 PM »
While this was only the dogs’ “word-meaning representation”, it still shows they had an idea of what message the specific sound of an individual human word was designed to convey.

Lead researcher Dr Attila Andics, of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, said: “During speech processing, there is a well-known distribution of labour in the human brain.

“It is mainly the left hemisphere’s job to process word meaning, and the right hemisphere’s job to process intonation. The human brain not only separately analyses what we say and how we say it, but also integrates the two types of information, to arrive at a unified meaning.

“Our findings suggest that dogs can also do all that, and they use very similar brain mechanisms.”

During the brain scans, the researchers spoke words like “good boy” and “well done” spoken with a praising intonation, the same words in a neutral voice and also words that were meaningless to them, like “however”, in both intonations.

The scans showed the dogs left brain tended to be activated when they heard words that were meaningful to them. This did not happen when they heard words they did not understand. The right hemisphere activated when they heard a praising intonation.

But the reward centre of their brains – which responds to pleasurable sensations like being petted, having sex and eating nice food – was only activated when they heard praising words spoken in a praising intonation.

“It shows that for dogs, a nice praise can very well work as a reward, but it works best if both words and intonation match,” Dr Andics said.

“So dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant.

“This is very similar to what human brains do.”



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