Different theories and results of previous research have tried to explain the social behavior of dogs. Adding to the list, a team of researchers at Emory University in Atlanta has claimed that dogs can recognize and respond to human faces, too, and the quality of assessing the facial form isn't just restricted to primates.
In the study published in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ, the researchers claim that they have identified a specialized part in the dog brain where all the visual face recognition takes place. The researchers identified the specialized region in the dog temporal cortex using the magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, conducted on six trained dogs.
"Our findings show that dogs have an innate way to process faces in their brains, a quality that has previously only been well-documented in humans and other primates," said neurologist Gregory Berns, the senior study author.
During the study, the researchers trained six dogs to enter an MRI machine and remain motionless during scanning. The training was such that the dogs did not require any sedation or medication to remain motionless during the study. The dogs were shown two videos of faces and everyday objects and while they looked at it, their brains were scanned.
The researchers found that the temporal lobe of the brain of the dogs showed much greater activity while watching the video of human faces, as compared to when they saw a video of objects. The researchers, thus, concluded that the dogs come with an innate response to faces.
"Dogs have been cohabiting with humans for longer than any other animal. They are incredibly social, not just with other members of their pack, but across species. Understanding more about canine cognition and perception may tell us more about social cognition and perception in general," explained Daniel Dilks, the first author of the study.