Dog brains do not prefer faces

October 05, 2020

Even though dogs gaze into man's eyes, dog brains may not process faces as human brains do. A new study from JNeurosci suggests that the canine visual system is organized differently: the face network found in primates may not extend to all mammals.

Faces constitute a critical part of communication for humans and other primates, so much so that faces have a special status in their visual system. Areas in the face network, like the fusiform face area, activate specifically to faces. Dogs care about faces, too, but they may not have face areas.

Bunford, Hernández-Pérez et al. used fMRI to compare the brain activity of humans and pet dogs as they watched brief videos of other humans and dogs. Human brains showed a preference for faces, meaning that some visual areas had greater activity in response to a face compared to the back of the head. A subset of these regions also displayed species preference, with increased activity in response to viewing a human over a dog. In contrast, dog brains only showed species preference. Visual areas had greater activity in response to seeing a dog over a human, and no activity difference between seeing a face vs. the back of the head.
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Manuscript title: Comparative Brain Imaging Reveals Analogous and Divergent Patterns of Species- and Face-Sensitivity in Humans and Dogs

Watch a video abstract

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

Society for Neuroscience

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