Dogs develop a special attachment to their owner's voice, according to new research. Voice generates brain activity similar to that seen in human babies in response to the mother's voice.
A man is more than a friend to a dog
According to a study published in the journal NeuroImage, dogs develop strong relationships with their owners: they don't just love their people caring for them, they are attached to them.
“Studying the mechanisms of the brain that underlie a dog's attachment to its owner is particularly exciting because it can help to understand how similar the unique relationship between individuals of different species is to other well-known relationships between relatives (for example, an infant's attachment to its mother). A few years ago, we discovered that the dog's brain is sensitive to verbal praise, but it remains unclear how the relationship with the speaker affects this sensitivity,”the researchers write.
The dogs' attachment to their owners was assessed using the "unfamiliar situation test," and their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In MRI, dogs listened to the laudatory and neutral (meaningless for dogs) speech of the owner and a familiar person.
The “unfamiliar situation test” has historically been used for behavioral observations of how children respond to the absence of a guardian.
The results showed that the reward center in the dog's brain is more sensitive to the owner's voice than when a familiar person speaks. The scientists also found that dogs that were more attached to their owners showed a greater neural response to the owner's voice. The animals recognized the voice even when the owner was out of sight, and the activity in the reward center was recorded, even when the person uttered not laudatory phrases, but neutral phrases.
The results showed that the dog's relationship with the owner is in many ways similar to that of the infant and the mother.