It’s a fact: Man and dog have made excellent friends for millennia, probably because there is a very high level of understanding between the two species. Why ? A 2014 study revealed that, like us, the dog has a region in his brain sensitive to the voice, and that he knows how to interpret the emotions of the transmitter, whether on all fours or two feet. Exactly as the Man does.
An exceptional ability to train, a fidelity to any test, an ability to grasp the emotions of his master … The dog is our companion for millennia and between us reign a rare complicity in the animal world. But where does it come from? A Hungarian research published in Current Biology tends to confirm the old proverb, which says that one looks alike. Because we would share with the dog a region of the brain dedicated to the voice, and to the recognition of the transmitted emotions …
The context: the best friends in the world
The processes of dog domestication are still a little unclear. They go back at least 33,000 years, at a time when humans were still hunting and gathering, long before the advent of agriculture. Now all the other species that are domestic today only became so after the control of the culture of the earth. Our faithful hairy friend is therefore an exception.
How could such a link be created? Men and wolves, at the origin of the dog, share several characteristics: they are social species, living on the same territory and chasing the same prey. They can therefore intrinsically coexist, if they manage to overcome this rivalry. But is it enough to make them the best friends in the world?
Attila Andics and colleagues at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest think that the characters in common are even stronger. They went directly to the brains of men and canines to reveal similarities that the naked eye can not see.
The study: part of the answer is in the brain
These works focused on the cerebral response to the voice, of men or dogs, as well as the reaction to the emotion contained in the sound. This is the first study of its kind ever conducted, since brain comparisons were usually made between humans and another primate. It was first necessary to train 11 dogs to remain motionless with a helmet on the ears, placed in an fMRI machine, to observe the activity of their brains under the same conditions as for the 22 human subjects participating in this work . All had to hear the same series of about 200 different sounds, featuring sequences of laughter or playful barking as well as crying or plaintive groans, in the middle of voiceless voices.
In the depths of their brain, a similar region is active listening to the voice. Obviously, each species reacts more strongly to the sounds of his fellow creatures, but does not remain insensitive to the sounds of his best friend. In addition, the authors have noticed similarities in the treatment of emotionally charged voices: an area close to the primary auditory cortex is activated more in case of joy than in case of sadness. The researchers admit that they were surprised when they noticed the intensity of this response, even if it was the other species that emitted the sound.
However, in the midst of all these similarities, the authors noted a clear difference. In the dog’s brain, 48% of sound-sensitive areas respond more to a neutral tone than to a voice. In humans, they are only 3% …
The external eye: Man and dog understand each other so well
Such research suggests several things. On the one hand, this brain function would have been present in the last ancestor common to Man and Dog, dated about 100 million years ago. Then other current animals with which we share this ancestor would also have this faculty dedicated to the voice.
Finally, this may be an aptitude that helps to strengthen the link between these two great friends and that explains why the doggies respond so well to the voice of their master, and more generally the success of voice communication. Thus, we understand each other and can more easily meet our mutual needs.