The Scent Your Dog Loves Most

Here's a neat new scientific finding for dog lovers - did you know your scent activates the pleasure centers in your pet's brain? According to neuroeconomist and NS faculty member, Gregory Berns of Emory University, who led the study, it's similar to the way the human brain responds to the perfume or cologne of a loved one.

Berns is known for his skill in training dogs to sit perfectly still for fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) tests, which affords him the ability to examine the inner workings of the canine brain. Whereas an MRI takes images of the brain, an fMRI measures the activity of the brain's nerve cells.

Berns and his team started their dog studies a few years ago to learn more about what dogs are thinking and experiencing. The researchers were especially interested in studying the areas of a dog's brain that are similar to areas in the human brain, for example, areas associated with reward.

In his latest study, which is the first brain-imaging study of canines responding to the smells of other dogs and people, Berns enlisted the help of 12 dogs of various breeds, including five service and therapy dogs and his own dog, Callie. All the dogs were trained to hold perfectly still in the fMRI machine. The goal was to use the technology to measure the dogs' response to biological odors.

Click here to view the full story in the Huffington Post. The story is also featured on Healthy Pets website. Learn more about this on Dr. Bern's website.