Brain Signals in the Unexpected: Exploring Canine Cognition

Brain Signals in the Unexpected: Exploring Canine Cognition

Brain signals in dogs reveal their deeper comprehension of language

News Published 2024.03.31 |  Claire Kim 

(Photo = Robert Bodizs)

Marianna Boros, a neuroscientist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, and her colleagues conducted research, in which they observed neural signals of surprise in the brains of dogs when presented with unexpected objects. This phenomenon is similar to the N400 effect in humans, where a brain wave occurs approximately 400 milliseconds after a human encounters something unexpected. 

(Photo = Oszkár Dániel Gáti)

The study involved 27 pet dogs of various breeds, with electrodes attached to the dogs’ heads to monitor their brain activity. Through a window with adjustable transparency, the dogs’ owners showed familiar toys brought from home after playing a recording of the owner naming the item. Immediately after an unexpected object was presented, for example showing a rope after playing the recording of a ball, the electrodes detected a notably larger signal, which the researchers suspect that indicates surprise. 

(Photo =

This finding suggests that, upon hearing the word, the dog had already developed an expectation and mental picture of the ball, hence the unexpected item eliciting a surprise signal. The signal was particularly powerful when the mismatch involved words that the dogs were familiar with, challenging previous assumptions about their cognitive abilities. The study offers insight into dogs' deeper comprehension of language and sheds light on the previously unknown mental intricacies of dogs that have not been revealed yet.

#Dogs #N400 #Language

Claire Kim (

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