Can MR images of dogs offer insights into human brains?

Why do some dogs hunt while others herd? The connection between brain structure and function is well-known in both humans and canines, but new research published in the Journal Neuroscience offers new insight into the relationship between innate brain wiring and learned behavior.

STAT News took a deeper dive into the study and talked with a few experts. In the study, scientists looked at MRI scans of 62 purebred dogs representing 33 breeds. They found six distinct brain networks between the breeds that exhibited “neuroanatomical differences.” These differences predicted behavioral specializations, according to the report.

For example, border collies must learn how to heard; they aren’t born with the skill. However, their brain network comes prewired to learn how to do so, the researchers noted. Similarly, in terriers, known for their ability to form an intense bond with humans, the network that supports social bonding is highly developed.

Understanding the correlation between natural brain wiring and an ability to lean behavior “might tell us something about our own brains and how that happens,” said lead investigator Erin Hecht, of Harvard University to STAT.

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