As humans have gone, so have their canine companions. But a new study shows the subtle ways our long-lasting partnership has molded the noggins of our dogs. Different breeds have slightly different brains from one another, the study found.
One example, [researcher Erin] Hecht said, involved dogs bred to be good at flushing out and visually tracking animals like birds through an environment, such as golden retrievers. And when the team compared these dogs to other breeds, they appeared to have key differences in brain regions linked to coordination, eye movement, and spatial navigation—everything you’d need to be a good tracker.
According to Hecht, these findings illustrate the complex ways that brains, including our own, evolve over time. They also suggest that we could use neuroscience someday to continue refining the specialized tasks we breed and train dogs for, such as rescue work or therapy work. More philosophically though, they show just how unique our relationship with dogs really is.
“This might sound a little goofy, but it’s also profound—our brains have been shaping the brains of another species,” Hecht said.
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