Functional MRI in Awake Unrestrained Dogs

May 11, 2012
Source:  Social Science Research Network (SSRN)

Because of dogs’ prolonged evolution with humans, many of the canine cognitive skills are thought to represent a selection of traits that make dogs particularly sensitive to human cues. But how does the dog mind dog actually work? To develop a methodology to answer this question, we trained two dogs to remain motionless for the duration required to collect quality fMRI images by using positive reinforcement without sedation or physical restraints. The task was designed to determine which brain circuits differentially respond to human hand signals denoting the presence or absence of a food reward. Head motion within trials was less than 1 mm. Consistent with prior reinforcement learning literature, we observed caudate activation in both dogs in response to the hand signal denoting reward versus no-reward.

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