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Science

Dogs' Brains Have Human-like "Voice Area" 139

Posted by samzenpus
from the listen-up-lassie dept.
sciencehabit writes "When you hear a friend's voice, you immediately picture her, even if you can't see her. And from the tone of her speech, you quickly gauge if she's happy or sad. You can do all of this because your human brain has a 'voice area.' Now, scientists using brain scanners and a crew of eager dogs have discovered that dog brains, too, have dedicated voice areas. The finding helps explain how canines can be so attuned to their owners' feelings."
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Dogs' Brains Have Human-like "Voice Area"

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Of course this area of the brain is missing in CEO's and political pundits..

  • Dogs are best (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cfalcon (779563) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @09:10PM (#46300809)

    I love all these studies that constantly come out showing that dogs are, well, loving, loyal, and built to hang around humans. Of COURSE they are. Dogs are domesticated, and like, are the best thing ever.

    I would like to see more studies about how flexible these relatively large changes are, and how fast they can occur. We all know about the Russion project to make "dogs out of foxes" by domesticating foxes by choosing them based on friendliness:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

    Do these little foxes have a section where they are mirroring the dogs? In other words, is this morphological change something that happens when an animal is domesticated into a pet, or are dogs just special because awwwww doggie?

    • Re:Dogs are best (Score:5, Informative)

      by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @09:38PM (#46300985)

      This study was the first to actually look for a "voice center" in a non-primate. It seems more likely a great many animals have one, much as it may disappoint exceptionalists.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Or as much as it may annoy humans who really hate any studies that prove we're not so different from other animals?

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        It's nice that they have now found it, as we have known it must exist for a while. Cats in particular learn not only to interpret their servant's voices but also to mimic them to a degree. Not talking or anything like that, but it is known that cats learn to produce sounds similar to human babies to encourage a better level of service from their staff.

        I find it very interesting that animals can process human voices this way. Clearly humans can learn to interpret animal sounds, but it seems that mammals with

        • by Optali (809880)

          What do we need mind controlling aliens for? We already have cats controlling our brainz since more than 9000 years ago and taking over the intertubes!!

      • by T.E.D. (34228)

        Through behavioral studies we already knew that dogs are very good at reading human facial emotions. We also know that wolves (which they are descended from) are not any good at that at all.

        So one possibility is that dogs have uniquely evolved this capacity for understanding humans, and you won't find any serious "voice center" or "face center" in other animals, even the wolves (which are arguably the same species).

        Another possibility is that understanding vocalizations and physical expressions is an im

        • by satuon (1822492)

          It's important to remember that dogs are descended from a particular subspecies of wolf - Gray Wolves, and not, for example, Black Wolves.

      • by mendax (114116)

        This study was the first to actually look for a "voice center" in a non-primate. It seems more likely a great many animals have one, much as it may disappoint exceptionalists.

        I am pretty sure that my beloved evil black cat knows my voice quite well. Indeed, she not only has figured out my voice, she's figured out everything else. She's highly manipulative. While I have trouble training her, she's got me well-trained.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Then why are domesitcated cats so dissimilar to domesticated dogs? It doesn't seem to be consistent across all domestications.
      • Re:Dogs are best (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 20, 2014 @10:15PM (#46301213)

        Because until very recently domesticated cats didn't interact directly with humans. Their job was pest control. Dogs on the other hand have had intimate relationships with humans for millennia, whether as working animals or pets, and have evolved to communicate and bond with us directly. That makes dogs exceptionally unique.

        OTOH, just because they're so unique doesn't necessarily mean that any particular characteristic is unique among all other species. But all their traits in the aggregate make them uniquely symbiotic with humans.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The reason is another, the dogs are descendants of the wolves with are social animals that live in a pack with complex relations, the cats are solitary animals that in nature only socialize in rare occasions. Basically the dog is a domesticated social animal while the cat is a domesticated solitary animal that we are teaching to socialize. Actually almost all canids are social animals while near all felines are solitary, the only social feline that I know are the lions.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Dogs on the other hand have had intimate relationships with humans for millennia, whether as working animals or pets, and have evolved to communicate and bond with us directly. That makes dogs exceptionally unique.

          What about sheep?

        • Re:Dogs are best (Score:5, Interesting)

          by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:00AM (#46302255) Journal
          Precisely, cats were not so much "domesticated" as attracted to rodents that were attracted to human garbage. Dogs and humans often make inter-species "friendships" for mutual benefit, the Coyote and the Badger is just one such example. It's more a less a given that highly intelligent pack hunters such as humans and dogs would combine their natural hunting skills.
          • Dogs and humans often make inter-species "friendships" for mutual benefit, the Coyote and the Badger is just one such example.

            Why? Is it because the coyote says* "ARGH! Snake! A snake!" and then gets impressed by the honey badger who doesn't give a fsck?

            * In a metaphorical sense.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Cat's offer a very different experience for humans, which is also why they do so well. Cats are more independent and have their own little lives and affairs, which human beings find interesting and enjoyable to observe. By chance evolution has given them personalities and behavioural traits that humans find it easy to anthropomorphize. Their voices are also capable of making sounds similar to human babies and other things that cause human beings to naturally fawn over them and attend to their needs.

          Cats hav

      • The simplest explanation is that the ancestors of domestic cats were a solitary species and so a region of the brain that aids in social interaction would be an ill use of resources.

        Cats are at an evolutionary disadvantage compared to other domesticated animals, which are almost all social and equipped with the biological tools for living in a pack or herd.

        Perhaps if prehistoric man had been been more daring and domesticated lions instead of F. silvestris...

        • Cats are at an evolutionary disadvantage...

          I see you highlighting a difference while offering no convincing evidence that this is a disadvantage.

          (Hey, somebody's got to stick up for the little furry dole-bludgers.)

        • by mendax (114116)

          Cats are at an evolutionary disadvantage compared to other domesticated animals, which are almost all social and equipped with the biological tools for living in a pack or herd.

          Ordinary domestic pussycats do just fine living in groups. That's one of the reasons why they do well living with humans and with other cats and dogs as well. But cats are solitary hunters, unlike dogs and wolves which hunt in packs.

      • Because cats domesticted us.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @09:12PM (#46300823) Homepage Journal

    Here is an example conversation:

    Me: "What's on top of the house?"

    Dog: "Roof!"

    Me: "Who's the most famous baseball player?"

    Dog: "Ruth!"

    Me: "How does sand-paper feel?"

    Dog: "Rough!"

    3 out 3!

    • At long last, after years of cutting-edge experimentation, enormous expense, and groundbreaking surgical techniques, a team of scientists conducts a press conference featuring their most successful patient, Shaggy, who has been given the linguistic equivalence of a 10 year-old child. To each and every question posed by the eager reporters, Shaggy replies in delight:

      "I'm a good boy!"

      • Squirrel!

    • by Frohboy (78614) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @10:06PM (#46301149)

      I personally prefer the version where a guy is showing his friend his new talking dog.

      New dog owner: Hey Sparky, what's on top of the house?
      Sparky: Roof!

      New dog owner: Hey Sparky, how does sandpaper feel?
      Sparky: Rough!

      New dog owner: Hey Sparky, who was the best baseball player of all time?
      Sparky: Ruth!

      Friend: Come on, you expect me to believe this bullshit?

      Sparky: What? You think I should have gone with DiMaggio?

      • by dargaud (518470)
        Reminds me of this french and untranslatable joke:
        Un fermier montre son cochon 'qui sait compter' à un ami. Il lui demande "7 plus 2 ?"
        Le cochon: "neuf! neuf! neuf!"
        Le fermier: "3 fois 3 ?"
        Le cochon: "neuf! neuf! neuf!"
        Le fermier: "36 divisé par4 ?"
        Le cochon: "neuf! neuf! neuf!"
        L'ami: "N'miporte quoi, il dit toujour 'neuf' ton cochon. Tiens, 4 fois 2 ?"
        Le cochon: "neuf! neuf! neuf!"
        Sur ce le fermier lui met un grand coup de pied dans les parties et le cochon fait "Huiiiiiit! Huiiiiiiiiit!
        • Reminds me of this french and untranslatable joke: Un fermier montre son cochon 'qui sait compter' à un ami. Il lui demande "7 plus 2 ?" Le cochon: "neuf! neuf! neuf!" Le fermier: "3 fois 3 ?" Le cochon: "neuf! neuf! neuf!" Le fermier: "36 divisé par4 ?" Le cochon: "neuf! neuf! neuf!" L'ami: "N'miporte quoi, il dit toujour 'neuf' ton cochon. Tiens, 4 fois 2 ?" Le cochon: "neuf! neuf! neuf!" Sur ce le fermier lui met un grand coup de pied dans les parties et le cochon fait "Huiiiiiit! Huiiiiiiiiit!"

          Well, yeah, pigs are pretty smart. .. but even French pigs have no style. Riddle me that!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by slampman (301381) *

        Guy is walking down the street and he sees a sign in the window of a house: For sale: talking dog.

        Guy thinks to himself, "yeah, right," but he's intrigued, so he knocks.

        A man answers the door, "yeah?"

        "Your sign says you have a talking dog for sale?

        "Yeah."

        "Really. Can I see him?"

        Gesturing to the sliding glass door at the back of the room, "yeah, he's out the back. Go ahead."

        Guy walks out the patio door and sure enough, there's a big Labrador sitting in the back yard. Guy says, "hey, boy.."

        Dog says "pleas

  • Cat got your brain? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @09:17PM (#46300853)
    There is an equally interesting hypothesis that dogs are well-suited to human companionship

    because they learn to mimic our facial expressions with fair accuracy.

    Cats have been reported to be developing smaller brains since their domestication. Whatever it takes, I guess.

    • Quit getting your news from a female talk show program.

      Dogs and humans have been living with each other for tens of thousands of years -- so there are several thousand generations of dogs co-evolving with humans.

      There is not a recent mystery here, there is not a coincidence here.

      This relationship predates the written word -- although probably not cave art.
      • Quit getting your news from a female talk show program.

        I'm Ricki Lake, you insensitive clod.

      • More recent genetic comparisons I have read about suggest the link between Hominids and Canines may go back over several hundred thousand years. Which makes the divergence from C. Lupis a little more believable. It has only been over the last ten thousand years that humans have been directly asserting control over canine breeding.

        A Half-million years, or so, is reasonably long enough to see changes in body organs, (such as the brain) as an organism adapts to fill a niche.

    • because they learn to mimic our facial expressions with fair accuracy.

      Mimic? Do they even have enough facial muscles to do that?

      I did hear, however, that they can interpret our facial expressions better than most chimps.

      • by volmtech (769154)
        My daughter's miniature dachshund has learned how to smile. She lowers the front of her bottom lip. Looks pretty creepy actually. She also "talks". Her best words are yep, uh huh, and I love you. She knows dozens of spoken words. Saying kisses will get you a mouth full of dog tongue, the word "treats" will get her and rest of the pack into the kitchen and standing on their backs legs begging. And I used to hate dogs.
        • And saying "Bad kitty" gets both of my cats under the bed for 20-30 minutes, and a lap full of apologetic cat in an hour. Animals learn words they hear frequently, and make reactions based on that.

    • by Zebedeu (739988)

      Cats have been reported to be developing smaller brains since their domestication. Whatever it takes, I guess.

      Dogs also tend have smaller brains than wolves the same size.

    • That would be a shocker since cats already have a more complex cortex than dogs. Is one smarter than the other? depends on how you look at it.
      Back on subject, cats are also vocalizers as we have several that mimic their names. I can only assume they here us using phonetic sounds that they perceive as chrips and cries. So yes I have witnessed is in dogs, cats and birds. When my fish start then I'm out of here.
  • Questions (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Ever notice how when you ask a dog a question, it almost always tilts its head and gives you a puzzled look? Cracks me up every time.
    • by Xest (935314)

      It's amusing because it does make them look a bit special, but it is in itself a sign of their intelligence. It's believed that dogs tilt their heads because the muzzle obscures part of their vision and by doing so it allows them to better see your facial expressions when looking at you - in particular your mouth.

      The fact you're asking a question and they do this shows that they're aware that you're asking something of them and they're trying to interpret what you're asking of them, this is one of the reaso

    • by NikeHerc (694644)
      Ever notice how when you ask a dog a question, it almost always tilts its head and gives you a puzzled look?

      When I want to demonstrate my dog's pronounced head tilting to others, I speak to my dog (a Border Collie mix) in complete sentences. The degree of tilt she displays seems to depend on whether she understands the word and likely the importance of the word. For example, "momma" or "treat" generates noticeably more tilt than "bath".
  • wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @09:21PM (#46300885) Homepage

    so human
    much voice like
    wow
    many feelings
    very dedicated

  • It goes both way (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhath (637240) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @09:34PM (#46300967)

    If you've been around dogs much you can get a pretty good idea of their emotional state by their vocalizations. Not just the obvious growl or excited yipping, even straight barks have an inflection that tells you a lot.

    It shouldn't surprise anyone that an animal which can vocalize emotion has a brain that can pick it up as well

    • My dogs bark all the time, and frequently at things I don't need to be notified about.

      But when they do bark at real trouble, there's a different sound in it.

      The inflection angle goes both ways.

      • "My dogs bark all the time, and frequently at things I don't need to be notified about.
        But when they do bark at real trouble, there's a different sound in it. "

        If you just now realized this, I hope you have the very uncommon relationship where your dog is the owner and you are the pet.
      • by ketomax (2859503)

        Dogs' Brains Have Human-like "Voice Area"

        So, human brains do have a doggy like "Bark Area"!

        • by Zebedeu (739988)

          That actually makes sense, and wouldn't surprise me at all.
          Considering that dogs and humans have evolved together for the last thousands of years, if dogs' brains have adapted, why wouldn't ours' have as well?

          • My dogs, when outside, have a very different bark for "Hey look at that! A dog/cat/mailman/anything that moves/etc. is visible through the fence" and "let me in". They also lie. If they bark at me while I am watching TV, I ask if they want bones or to go out. They point at the kitchen or the door with their noses. They learned I always let them out - don't want to clean up dog crap - but only give them bones sometimes. So they ALWAYS point at the door and then if they want bones circle back to the kitchen.
    • "It shouldn't surprise anyone that an animal which can vocalize emotion has a brain that can pick it up as well"

      Find me a mammal that doesn't vocalize. Hell, find me a bird. Aw shit --- find me an amphibian that doesn't vocalize.

      Aw for fucks sake, crickets make noises and locusts make noises to communicate with each other.

      Maybe -- just maybe --- life has communicated with noises for a long, long, long time.
    • by dargaud (518470)

      It shouldn't surprise anyone that an animal which can vocalize emotion has a brain that can pick it up as well

      Well, you obviously don't have a cat...

  • also (Score:5, Funny)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @10:08PM (#46301167)

    My dogs "fart area" of the brain is very similar to a humans.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They say a dog's sense of smell is thousands of times better than a human's. Yet when my dog would rip one, she'd twist around and take a close whiff of it. Sheesh, it would drive me out of the room.

      • by phorm (591458)

        They also like to roll in crap and/or eat it (when it comes from other animals). They may have a more "sensitive" sense of smell but it doesn't mean they're attracted/repelled by the same smells as humans.

        That said, my buddy's dog - a doberman - dropped a few gas-bombs on him, so he decided to fight back after eating some rather greasy food. Now all he has to do is turn his backside towards the dog as if he's farting, and its eyes grow wife, ears perk, and it runs for the hills. It's pretty funny to see a h

  • no, I do not picture my coworker and friend's butt-ugly mug when I hear their voice

  • My yellow lab understands words and picks up on the tone of my voice. Listens better than my kids.
  • What scans of Alex the African-Gray parrot [wikipedia.org] would have shown. Or any talking bird for that matter. Actually, I would guess that many birds have a similar "voice region". Dolphins and whales too for that matter.
  • Dog smarts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Strange Ranger (454494) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @11:16PM (#46301433)

    We've had carefully selected Golden Retrievers in our extended family for 30 years. For a point of reference this is a breed that's ranked #5 in intelligence compared to all breeds. Our family dog is amazingly human-like, even after carefully trying not to anthropomorphize him and our feelings about him.
     
    He has a vocabulary of about 50 words. He understands short sentences, or at least enough words in them to understand what we mean. "Go upstairs and find your ball", "Hey I put food in your bowl", "Go see your mom" (since he's an adopted pet we're his adoptive parents, dogs are not things to own). He responds like a human. He can practically tell you a whole story with his facial expressions. He can roll his eyes sort of by looking at the ceiling and making a face when he thinks we're being ridiculous, and it's different than a similar face when he thinks we're being obtuse. He even has a favorite movie, Snow Dogs. He pays close attention to the dogs and has done the eyeroll to the ceiling thing when the humans start making out. He cracks us up daily.
     
    We've all seen a dog lift an eyebrow and tilt their head to say "what the heck are you talking about?" Tip of the iceberg. When you have a really smart one for a decade it's like having a furry kid in the family. A very well behaved one, but there you go.
     
    I sort of feel sorry for people who never get to be "dog people", call a dog "it" and think the rest of us are crazy and just anthropomorphizing our pet. Most of us "dog people" don't need these studies to tell us anything. But I'm still glad they're studying.

    • Re:Dog smarts (Score:4, Informative)

      by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:16AM (#46302283) Journal
      I once had a litter of pups running around my back yard. Getting out of the back door was difficult because they would all rush inside when I opened it. One day I opened the door to go outside and sure enough a small herd of 6wk old pups came running up the stairs yapping excitedly. However on this occasion they stopped half way up the stairs and ran back down and around the side of the house. They went back and forth from me to the side of the house several times making a real racket and tripping over each other. When I finally put my head around the corner I found a pup with its head stuck in a plastic watering can. It was abundantly clear to me that the pups knew their sibling was in trouble, knew I could help, and knew how to communicate this to me.
      • by wcrowe (94389)

        Great story. Those of us who have lived with dogs can usually tell similar stories. What is notable about yours is the age of the pups. Dogs learn to communicate with us very quickly, it would seem.

      • I have a 3 year old Great Pyrenees and a 4 month old German Shepherd. They routinely tell on each other such as if one makes a mess or the other steals a stuffed animal it should not have. Additionally, they will also rat out my daughter if she does something they don't like. They look for me if there is trouble such as the time my daughter locked herself out of the house one morning. I woke up to the Pyrenees whining at the bedroom door. Since he was frantic I followed him downstairs and let her back in.

        I

    • by Guest316 (3014867)
      Everyone "knows" animals, whether what they "know" is that animals are dumb, instinct-driven automatons or intelligent, emotional beings. Rigorous, unbiased research is good for providing a baseline of information with better reliability than "just knowing." After all, assuming that animals share no emotional or cognitive parallels with humans can be just as error-prone as assuming that they're "just like us."

      When you have a really smart one for a decade it's like having a furry kid in the family.

      And then shortly after a decade they go and die on you. Really inconsiderate of them.

    • My dog responds to this and I don't quite understand how. If I say that to him and the ball is around, he will go after it and immediately want to play. Even if the ball is put away or not visible (we cycle toy free availability to maintain interest), he will search for it.

      But I haven't done often enough or with enough treats to make it a reinforced behavior like "sit", "down" or "wait". I can only guess I've used the word "ball" a lot when playing with him and the ball and he's come to associate that wo

  • Bad Assumption (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Baby Duck (176251) on Friday February 21, 2014 @12:39AM (#46301731) Homepage

    "When you hear a friend's voice, you immediately picture her ..."

    Nope. I do not. I might visualize an abstract, inky blob, but I most certainly do not picture the person.

  • Perhaps this finding will help these people with the Indiegogo fundraising for their project;

    http://www.nomorewoof.com/ [nomorewoof.com]

  • I'd love to sit down and have a beer with my adopted dogs. I'd like to hear their story, where they came from, what they've done in their lives and what they are thinking about now.

    Even if their speech was on the level of a toddler or smaller child, I'd still love to hear it.

  • Dogs have a lot more language than most people realize. We have a many generational large pack of livestock working dogs on our farm. Admittedly these dogs are more intelligent than a typical companion dog because they are selected for intelligence and spend their life doing herding, guarding and other tasks which stimulates their minds.

    They typically know 300 words that is in a shared pidgin that we use which is a combination of signs, vocals (our language and theirs) and body language which describe objec

  • by jgotts (2785)

    "When you hear a friend's voice, you immediately picture her, even if you can't see her."

    Who is this referring to? I never visualize people. I'm a non-visual learner. When I hear someone's voice I think of the person's identity, never an image.

  • What is happening to Slashdot? And what is a Russion?
  • I swear to god this is true.
    I live on a farm, that when we bought it inherited a number of cats, as well as a bunch from a neighbors farm. (owner had died so cats transferred to where the food was). Along with these cats came feline leukemia which is a sickness that will kill a 3 year old cat within a month, but is often picked up when they are kittens. (very sad). They end up being very lethargic and then die. We ended up with over 20 cats, peaking at over 30.

    In anycase, there was one cat, we called the m

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