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Do dogs have empathy?

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Researcher at the Emory University Center for Neuropolicy used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to look at the brain activities of an active dog and found some of them pay very close attention to their owners.

In one experiment, two dogs were trained to respond to hand signals. One signal meant the dog would receive a hot dog treat, and another signal meant it would not receive one.

The brain scans revealed that the caudate region of the brain, associated with rewards in humans, activated in both dogs when they saw the signal for the treat, but not for the no-treat signal.

The aim of this study is to understand the dog-human relationship, from the dog's perspective, said Gregory Berns of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy who led the study.

"These show that dogs pay very close attention to human signals.

And these signals may have a direct line to the dog's reward system," he was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

"It was amazing to see the first brain images of a fully awake, unrestrained dog," Berns said. "As far as we know, no one has been able to do this previously. We hope this opens up a whole new door for understanding canine cognition and inter-species communication. We want to understand the dog-human relationship, from the dog

First Published: Sun, May 06 2012. 16:45 IST