Children And Dogs Evoke The Same Human Emotional Response

20 Oct 2014 | by | Posted in: Wag News


dog and kid

In a recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, brain scans have revealed that human responses to dogs and children are the same and suggest a deep evolutionary bond. The research has been carried out to understand the special relationship that humans share with canines and how the bond can be beneficial when it comes to dog assisted therapies.

The experiment carried out by Lori Palley and Luke Stoeckel involved 14 mothers aged between 22 - 45 with at least one child between the age of 2 - 10 years and a dog that they had owned for at least 2 years. During the study, each lady underwent an MRI (it measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow) and viewed images of her children and dog as well as unknown children and dogs. Post the MRI, a 11 question multiple choice test was given to the ladies that asked:

  • About the hair colour of their child and dog.
  • The number of the pictures viewed.

The women had to rate the images based of the children and the dogs based on the emotional value. The study aims to compare the human - pet bond with that of the maternal child relationship and analyse the patterns of brain activity when mothers viewed the images. The main aim is to understand what areas in the brain may be common and which may be distinct. According to the results posted in the journal PLOS ONE, the following main points were noteworthy:

  • When mother looked at the pictures of their own kids and dogs, brain areas associated with emotion, reward, visual processing and social cognition showed increased activity.
  • High levels of activity were involved in bond formation especially when it came to viewing pictures of own children versus own dogs.
  • The brain responses were the strongest when the women viewed their own child and dog versus the ones that they did not know.
  • Brain scans showed high level of activity especially in social and visual progressing when mothers looked at pictures of their pets.

Palley has mentioned that results will have to be replicated in a larger study that will include men and women without kids or pets. With this study Palley hopes to understand the science behind the effectiveness of human pet bonds and also add to the scientific legitimacy of pet ownership.

Source: Reuters; Image Source :

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