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article imageDogs are found to count in a similar way to humans

By Tim Sandle     Jan 1, 2020 in Science
It’s established that dogs can count numbers up to a given level. New research shows that dogs undertake this function in the same brain region as humans, which suggests a common neural mechanism as part of mammalian evolution.
The novel study into canine 'numerosity' comes from Emory Health Sciences in the U.S. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to process the brain of different dogs (eleven different breeds), as the dogs watched differing numbers of dots which flashed across a screen.
The analysis showed that the parietotemporal cortex of each dog responded to the varying numbers of flashing dots. By keeping the area of each dot constant, this revealed that it was the number of the dots that produced the response, rather than other factors like the relative size of a dog.
Sunny  the new Obama family dog  on the South Lawn of the White House  Aug. 19  2013.
Sunny, the new Obama family dog, on the South Lawn of the White House, Aug. 19, 2013.
White House photo
The evolutionary function in dogs to count enables to canine to quickly assess the number of objects in a scene, like how many there are predators approaching or the quantity of food available.
What is of interest is that humans also use the parietal cortex for this counting ability (what’s known as numerosity ). This ability is present even in infants. Throughout the animal world, the ability to ‘count’ appear to be innate.
The parietal lobe is at the back of the brain and is divided into two hemispheres. It functions in processing sensory information regarding the location of parts of the body as well as interpreting visual information.
According to lead researcher, Dr. Gregory Berns: “Our work not only shows that dogs use a similar part of their brain to process numbers of objects as humans do -- it shows that they don't need to be trained to do it.”
A touching moment with a dog.
A touching moment with a dog.
Noël Zia Lee (CC BY 2.0)
In terms of the wider significance of the study, he adds: “Understanding neural mechanisms -- both in humans and across species -- gives us insights into both how our brains evolved over time and how they function now.”
These types of insights could contribute to the treatment of brain abnormalities as well as providing deeper understanding for the development of artificial intelligence systems
The following video provides more information about the study and its main findings:
The research is published in the journal Biology Letters. The research paper is titled “Canine sense of quantity: evidence for numerical ratio-dependent activation in parietotemporal cortex.”
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