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A Smile Can Go a Long Way

Humans aren't the only animals that enjoy smiling! While dogs don't necessarily smile in the way we do, they sure do enjoy our smiles. In some not-surprising news, dogs are smarter than we think!

In a recent experiment, scientists studied eight different dogs' reaction to human's facial expressions. Of course, since dogs can't exactly tell us how they're interpreting a human's facial expression, scientists had to study the pups in other ways. The eight dogs (who were lovable border collies, by the way) laid down in an MRI machine while their brain activity was scanned. They were, of course, trained by the scientists to stay still while the machines scanned them. 

So, what were the MRIs looking for? Well, the machines projected images of various facial expressions - all in the gender of the dog's owner. The MRI results were then analyzed for difference in the dogs' reactions from one expression to another.

The result? Dogs are smart. Again, we knew that. Dogs are experts at reading the facial expression of humans, especially those who are the same gender as their owner. Every time a dog viewed a picture of a human expressing happiness, their brain lit up in the temporal lobe and other neural regions. This result is very similar when looking at a human's reaction to "happy" expressions. 

When dogs viewed other expressions, their brain didn't react nearly as much. While it did react, it was nowhere near as distinct as the reaction to "happiness".

So, smile, and maybe your dog will, too!


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Jenna Gomes

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Jenna Gomes