Regional brain activations in awake unrestrained dogs

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Abstract

Because of its accessibility, tractability, evolutionary history, and social intelligence, the domestic dog is increasingly used as a model animal in behavioral studies. Although this has led to new insights into canine cognition, understanding of dog brain function has not advanced apace. Practical and ethical concerns have limited the use of the invasive brain imaging techniques typically used with primate and rodent models. Now, with the advent of awake unrestrained canine functional magnetic resonance imaging (Berns et al., 2012), data can be obtained on brain function during passive reception of stimuli and even during active decision making. Such data have already proven useful for linking brain regions with particular cognitive functions, illuminating canine socioemotional processes, and grounding behavioral observations of phenotypic variability in a neural substrate. Future studies may shed new light on brain networks and neural dysfunction in dogs and will likely bear relevance for clinical practitioners, dog trainers, and comparative psychologists and neuroscientists. This brief review discusses prior dog imaging work; addresses the practical and technical hurdles to awake unrestrained dog imaging; and discusses the current state of the science.

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