Scientists have discovered that dogs can understand human speech
October 20, 2021
Brain studies have shown that dogs process speech in a similar way to how humans do, and that they are truly happy when words of praise are accompanied by appropriate words.
It turned out that these dogs sitting around the MRI scanner understand some human words.
According to an article published in the prestigious journal Science, some dogs can understand what people are talking about.
For the first time in the world in an experiment of this kind, scientists from Hungary trained 13 dogs to voluntarily lie in an MRI scanner so that they could monitor what was happening in their brains when the researchers spoke to them.
They found that the dog’s brain processes speech similarly to the human brain – the right hemisphere is responsible for processing emotions, and the left is responsible for processing meaning.
Only when the intonation of praise and the corresponding words were combined in the speech of scientists, the processes taking place in the dog’s brain indicated that it was happy.
This means that dogs have an idea of the meaning of a particular word in human speech.
Leading researcher at the Lorand Eotvos University of Budapest, Dr. Attila Andix, states: “When processing speech in the human brain, there is a certain distribution of labor.
The main task of the left hemisphere is to process the meaning of a word, and the right hemisphere is to process intonation. The human brain not only analyzes separately what we say and how we say it, but it also combines both types of information to arrive at a single meaning.
Our findings suggest that dogs can do all of these things too, and that they use similar brain mechanisms. ”
On brain scans, the researchers spoke words like “good boy” and “good” with complimentary intonations, the same words with neutral intonation and words that had no meaning to them, such as “however,” in both intonations.
The scans showed that the left hemisphere of the brain in dogs was activated when they heard words that meant to them. This did not happen when they heard words they did not understand. The right hemisphere activated when they heard the intonation of praise.
However, the pleasure center in their brain, which is responsible for pleasurable sensations such as petting, sex, and delicious food, was activated only when the dogs heard words of praise spoken in the appropriate intonation.
“Research shows that praise works well as a reward for dogs, but the results are better when the words are intoned,” says Dr. Andix.
Consequently, dogs can not only perceive what we say, but can also match intonation and meaning to correctly interpret the meaning of words.
This is very similar to the processes that take place in the human brain.
The results of this study contradict the idea that dogs can only understand intonation and have no idea what exactly they are being told.
Although they may react to words of praise and words they don’t understand – and even insults – they are genuinely happy only when they understand the praise they receive.
The researchers described their work as the first step towards understanding how dogs understand human speech.
The researchers believe these results will help humans and dogs understand each other better.