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Author Notes:

Gregory S. Berns, Email: gberns@emory.edu

A.P., M.S. and G.B. designed the research; A.P., R.C., K.A. and G.B. collected the data; A.P., R.C., K.A. and G.B. analyzed data; A.P., M.S. and G.B. trained dogs; and A.P., M.S. and G.B. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests G.B. and M.S. own equity in Dog Star Technologies and developed technology used in some of the research described in this paper.

The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by Emory University in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.

M.S. is the owner of Comprehensive Pet Therapy (CPT) but no CPT technology or IP was used in this research.


Fast neural learning in dogs: A multimodal sensory fMRI study


Journal Title:

Scientific Reports


Volume 8, Number 14614


, Pages 14614-14614

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Dogs may follow their nose, but they learn associations to many types of sensory stimuli. Are some modalities learned better than others? We used awake fMRI in 19 dogs over a series of three experiments to measure reward-related learning of visual, olfactory, and verbal stimuli. Neurobiological learning curves were generated for individual dogs by measuring activation over time within three regions of interest: the caudate nucleus, amygdala, and parietotemporal cortex. The learning curves showed that dogs formed stimulus-reward associations in as little as 22 trials. Consistent with neuroimaging studies of associative learning, the caudate showed a main effect for reward-related stimuli, but not a significant interaction with modality. However, there were significant differences in the time courses, suggesting that although multiple modalities are represented in the caudate, the rates of acquisition and habituation are modality-dependent and are potentially gated by their salience in the amygdala. Visual and olfactory modalities resulted in the fastest learning, while verbal stimuli were least effective, suggesting that verbal commands may be the least efficient way to train dogs.

Copyright information:

© The Author(s) 2018

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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