Researchers Hope Canine Brain Holds Clues to Ours

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2009 2:40 PM CDT
Two dogs during an impromptu experiment.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – At Harvard and labs across the country, researchers are turning to dogs for clues on how their brains—and ours—work, the Boston Globe reports. “Psychologists have been ignoring animals that were sleeping quietly at their feet,” one professor said, but no longer. Dogs understand pointing better than even our closest primate relatives, and scientists wonder if their intelligence could be tied to domestication.

Harvard’s new Canine Cognition Lab is running subjects through simple tests of symbol recognition and abstract concepts like sameness. “To what extent is an animal that’s really been bred to be with humans capable of some of the same psychological mechanisms?” wonders the lab’s leader. Other research has delved into dogs’ sense of guilt, and all of it is a far cry from Pavlov.