(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers at Lorand Eotwoes University (Budapest) set out to test whether dogs can distinguish languages. Fragments of The Little Prince were read to the animals in Hungarian and Spanish.
MRI studies showed that various reactions took place in their auditory cortex. The research results were published in the scientific journal Neurolmage.
A dog’s brain is capable of distinguishing between languages, researchers from Hungary say. They read to the group of four-legged excerpts from Antoine Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince in Hungarian and Spanish.
The study was carried out by a group of scientists led by Laura W. Quaya of Lorand Eotwoes University (ELTE) in Budapest.
“Several years ago I moved from Mexico to Hungary to join the Laboratory of Communication Neuroetology at the ELTE Faculty of Ethology for research. My dog was with me. I used to only speak Spanish with her, so I wondered if the dog noticed that people in Budapest speak a different language, ”explained Quaya.
“We know that people, even babies, notice the difference. But maybe the dogs don’t care. To find out, we developed a brain imaging study, ”she added.
Eighteen dogs, including her own, were trained to lie still during an MRI scan. Previously, each dog heard only one language from its owner: Hungarian or Spanish.
The researchers found that the patterns of brain response to both languages in the auditory cortex of dogs differed from each other. Interestingly, the older the dog was, the easier its brain could distinguish between the two languages.
“Each language has its own sonic characteristics. The results of the study show that dogs learn better and better over the course of their lives about how their owner’s language sounds, said study co-author Raul Hernandez-Perez.
“This study shows for the first time that the brain of a non-human being can distinguish between two languages,” he added.
Attila Andix, the head of the ELTE neuroethological research group, noted that it is still unclear whether the ability of dogs to distinguish languages is due to changes in their brains, or other animal species also have a similar ability.
“More research is needed to answer this question,” Andix said.
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