Humans have changed dogs' brains through breeding

Centuries of selective breeding by humans have led to variations in dogs' physical traits and behaviors, but also their brains.

    2019/09/05

NSFW    Aww! Animals!

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — A new study has found that the role for which a dog is bred is also reflected in their brain structure.

The Washington Post reports that selective breeding by humans has led to diverse physical and behavioral variations in dogs. And now, new research has found it has also altered the way their brains are built.

A study published in JNeurosci looked at the MRI scans of 62 dogs from 33 different breeds, and found that brains varied in form and size from breed to breed.

Using American Kennel Club data, researchers grouped the canines based on the original intention for their breed, such as scent hunting, herding, or explicit companionship.

They then examined areas of the dogs' brains that varied most across breeds and mapped out six distinct brain networks each linked to certain functions.

Anatomical variations in the brain networks were associated with variations in behavior. For example, network two, which involves the sense of smell, correlated significantly with scent hunting.

In the future, the team hopes to better understand why dogs of the same breed can themselves display diverse behaviors, or what specifically makes a high-skill performer versus a low-skill performer.
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