What’s Going on in Your Dog’s Brain?

Posted on September 9, 2016

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Contrary to popular opinion, and with all due respect to Gary Larson (creator of the iconic cartoon, in which whatever we say is heard as blah-blah-blah by our dogs), dogs actually do understand us. According to the August 31 print issue of the Washington Post (Note to Readers: If you don’t know what a print issue newspaper is, don’t worry. Soon, no one else will, either), scientists in Hungary have found that “dogs understand both the meaning of words and the intonation used to speak them.”

This was big news for Life in the Boomer Lane, who always assumed that if she smiled and said in a very excited voice “Do you want to go to go into your doggie carrier and stay there all day with no food or water?!” any of her several dogs through the years would wag his/her tail and spin around in complete ecstasy. Conversely, she believed that if she frowned and said in a monotone “Would you like a bowl of treats now, followed by a long walk?” her dogs would lower their heads, place their tails between their legs, and slink away.

Not so, accourding to the Hungarian scientists who conducted the study. It turns out that dogs use the same parts of their brain to understand words and intonation. The scientists learned this by placing 13 family dogs (mostly golden retreivers and border collies) and instructed them to sit still for seven minutes in an MRI scanner, so they could assess their brain activity.

It should be noted at this point that LBL’s younger son, at age 13, was unable to complete with these dogs for their ability to act appropriately while having an MRI. During his own MRI, he moved and declared he was unable to stop moving, an event that caused the MRI to be terminated (after an excruciating 30 minutes) and LBL to lose two entire afternoons and her son two days of school. LBL seems to remember that sedation was necessary on a subsequent attempt, but she can’t be sure. Said son now has his own golden retriever, so LBL won’t tell him about this research, in the event he thinks that LBL is making a statement about the failire of his intelligence, as compared to that of his pet.

Back to the research study. The female trainer spoke various words to the dogs, some of them positive and some negative. “Each dog heard each word in both a neutral tone and a happy, attaboy tone.” The result was that dogs responded to happy tones only when the words used were positive.  According to the Post, “That means we aren’t as special as we like to think, at least when it comes to how our brains deal with language.”

(LBL would like to insert at this point that recent global and national events have confirmed that we aren’t quite as special as we like to think, regarding any number of issues, and, at this point, are in competition for inclusion in the 30-50% of all species that will evaporate, due to climate change)

Feline lovers (those who love cats, rather than cats who love each other) should know that the article then went on to bring up the issue of cats, specifically whether cats also use both words and inflection together to interpret what is said to them. Scientists began by placing cats into the same MRIs as the dogs were placed in and attempted to make them stay there.  As soon as these scientists are released from the hospital, they will discuss their findings.

In the meantime, a national spokescat remarked, “We are lodging a protest about the use of cats in any scientific research. And we really don’t give a shit about any of this research, anyway. Dogs fall for this all the time. Next, they’ll be asked who they would vote for, as though their vote would actually matter. It’s  complete nonsense.” The spokescat then went on to announce that, rather than taking up his valuable time to address cat-related issues in the future, he would designate a surrogate to speak for him.  “I have applications pending from Rudy Giuliani,Chris Christie and Katrina Pierson. I should be making a final decision after the election.”

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Posted in: cats, dogs, humor, pets, research, satire