Dogs can distinguish languages

A neurobiologist from Hungary, Laura Cuaya, had a question about her dog. To solve it, she conducted a scientific study. She found that dogs can distinguish languages. She had had the question since she moved with her dog Kun-kun from Mexico to Hungary.

Dogs can distinguish languages, according to science.
Dogs can distinguish languages, according to science.

Attentive dogs

“We noticed that people in Budapest were very dog friendly. Often, they would approach my dog and talk to him. Kun-kun usually pays a lot of attention to people. I wondered if he noticed that people in Budapest speak a different language.” Cuaya explained this to WordsSideKick.com.

how to analyze how dogs react to different languages? Researchers trained 18 dogs, including Kun-kun. They were to be immobile in an MRI machine. While the dogs were being scanned, the researchers played a reading in Spanish from the book The Little Prince. Later, it was made in Hungarian. They also tested a series of human noises of neither language. All dogs had shown reaction to only one of the two languages. This means that one was familiar to them and the other was not.

The MRI results were quoted by Livescience. They suggest that dogs can distinguish languages. And they react differently to familiar and unfamiliar languages.

In the tests, dogs were scanned to record their reactions.
In the tests, the dogs were scanned to record their reactions.

The secret in the brain

Researchers suspect that the primary and secondary auditory cortex in the brains of dogs makes this possible. Canines process speech in two steps known as “hierarchical processing.”

“The primary auditory cortex detects whether a sound is speech or not. Then, the secondary auditory cortex differentiates between familiar and unfamiliar speech.” Adult dogs do better.

“The main reason is the amount of exposure to the language. The older dogs listened more to the humans while talking,” said the lead author.

With some training, many animals’ brains could do the same. However, dogs are unique in that they don’t need to be trained for that.

“Their brains detected the difference spontaneously. Perhaps due to the domestication process,” concluded Cuaya.

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