Dogs process faces in specialized brain area, study reveals

Dogs have a specialized region in their brains for processing faces, a new study finds. PeerJ published the research, which provides the first evidence for a face-selective region in the temporal cortex of dogs. “Our findings show that dogs have an innate way to process faces in their brains, a quality that has previously only been well-documented in humans and other primates,” says Dr. Gregory Berns, faculty member in Neuroscience, and the senior author of the study. 

Having neural machinery dedicated to face processing suggests that this ability is hard-wired through cognitive evolution, Berns says, and may help explain dogs’ extreme sensitivity to human social cues.

For the current study, the researchers focused on how dogs respond to faces versus everyday objects. “Dogs are obviously highly social animals,” Berns says, “so it makes sense that they would respond to faces. We wanted to know whether that response is learned or innate.”

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