New Type Of MRI Scans Dogs' Brains As They Respond To A Stimulus

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — You only have to go to one of the many dog runs in the city to find people with opinions on the mental capabilities of their pets.

“Dogs are four-legged angels. So, they have a sort of spirituality about them so if you’re lucky enough you connect,” Adam Levinthal told CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez.

But, believing is not the same as proving. At the Animal Medical Center, MRIs are done on dogs in the same way that they are done on humans.

“We often times don’t need to see what neuron is firing when. We simply need to find out what a surgeon needs to take out or otherwise treat,” explained Dr. Anthony Fischetti.

A new type of brain scan called an f-MRI shows more than what the brain looks like.

“In order to get the brain to do something you have to leave the dog awake and then get them to respond to various environmental stimuli,” Dr. Ann Hohenhaus explained.

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta spent months training dogs to crawl into MRI mock ups and to rest their heads on custom head rests, they even got them used to the loud knocking in an MRI. The training process was used to get the dogs to lay still during a brain scan.

“When the dog has some sort of environmental stimulus, the smell of their owner, the sight of their owners, or a hot dog to eat, their brain started working, suggesting that dogs feel emotional excitement and happiness about food and their family,” Dr. Hohenhaus said.

The brain area that lit up is called the Caudate Nucleus. In humans the Caudate Nucleus lights up when a person anticipates or feels something pleasurable.

From a strict scientific standpoint these tests are not the same thing as proving that dogs are thinking or feeling something.

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