60-Second Science

Lassie and Timmy Hear Vocals in Same Brain Area

Functional MRI brain scans show that man and man's best friend use analogous brain regions to process vocalizations of both their own and the other species. Sophie Bushwick reports

Dogs make great listeners. And that may be because man and man's best friend use analogous brain regions to process voices.
Researchers collected almost 200 sound samples, including human and canine vocalizations, as well as environmental noises and silence. They played these clips to 22 people and 11 dogs while the subjects’ brains were undergoing functional MRI scans.   
Human brains tuned in most to vocal sounds. Dog brains were most sensitive to environmental noises. But they still had a lot in common. A dedicated brain area reacted strongly to the vocalizations of their own species. And that area also responded to the voices of the other species. Meanwhile, a different brain region noted emotion in a voice, with a strong response to cheery sounds like laughter and a weaker reaction to unhappy noises like canine whining. The study is in the journal Current Biology. [Attila Andics et al., Voice-Sensitive Regions in the Dog and Human Brain Are Revealed by Comparative fMRI]  
Seems that thousands of years of domestication have made our furry friends sensitive to the same vocal cues we are. You can confide in Fido.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
See video with study authors Attila Andics and Márta Gácsi at

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