The Current

Are dogs more human than we realize?

A neuroscientist trains his dog to sit quietly in an MRI machine and discovers a level of awareness so acute he believes we should start treating dogs more like persons.
New research suggests dogs have rich emotional lives and acute levels of awareness that make them more human than Scooby-Doo and just-as-human in cognitive terms as the average kid. Today we discuss the ethics behind dogs in MRI machines to answer the question. Are dogs people too?

A neuroscientist comes to a startling conclusion: Dogs are people too.

Most people lack the patience to train Fido to roll-over and play dead. But neuroscientist Gregory Berns convinced his dog, Callie, to happily sit still in a M.R.I. scanner. He got such an unexpected image of the dog's active brain, it made Dr. Berns' brain more active as well. He's gone on to train and test a dozen dogs to be good test subjects.

Here is a video of Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns training dogs to get in an MRI machine:


Dr. Berns' conclusion after doing this work: Dogs are people too. They show signs suggesting they may experience positive emotions such as love and attachment... and could have a level of awareness similar to a child's.

Dr. Gregory Berns is a neuroscientist and professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and author of How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and his Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain. He was in Atlanta.

To many people, dogs are beloved, faithful companions -- but they are property. Animals just lack the special something that makes humans self-aware. But if the M.R.I. scans indicate what Dr. Berns suggests they do -- we may have to question just how special we humans really are.

Kerry Bowman, a bioethicst at the University of Toronto has thoughts on the ethical implications on animal sentience. He was in Toronto.

Do you have stories to share about moments you've had with an animal? Are dogs people too? Share your thoughts with us.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins

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