A team of researchers from Emory University in the United States used magnetic resonance imaging to understand how canine brains perceive and analyze the world around them. They have thus identified a fundamental difference between canine and human perception: dogs are much more attentive to movements, but focus little on the person who is causing them. The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Journal of Visualized Experiments, September 13, 2022.
Ninety minute videos
To do this, the scientists used two friendly doggies, Daisy and Bhubo, who were specially trained to remain motionless for long periods within a scanner, without having to be attached. The two dogs were shown ninety minutes of film showing, among other things, dogs frolicking around, vehicles passing in a street, humans interacting with each other, a deer crossing a path, a cat in a house and dogs walking on a leash.
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An AI classifies the data
Two humans also underwent the same treatment in order to compare the data collected and to help the scientists highlight the differences in perception between the man and his best friend. An artificial intelligence, specially developed for the occasion, then classified the data obtained according to the type of interaction projected in the videos.
“Although our work is based on just two dogs, it offers proof of concept that these methods work on dogs,” says neuroscientist Erin Phillips. “I hope this article will allow other researchers to apply these same methods, in order to obtain a better understanding of the workings of the minds of different animals,” she says.
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Dogs focus on detecting movement
According to the results of the study, dogs react primarily to movement. “We humans are very object-oriented,” says Erin Phillips. “Dogs seem more concerned with the action itself than the person doing it.” According to the researchers, dogs, which only distinguish shades of blue and yellow, have a higher density of motion-sensitive visual receptors.
According to the researchers, these results could be explained by the fact that dogs have evolved using mainly their visual sense to quickly perceive surrounding threats, relying on their very powerful sense of smell to identify objects or people. Scientists will now attempt to analyze how the canine brain reacts to olfactory stimuli.
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