The Best Gig in Neuroscience: Taking Pictures of Dogs


Actually, the best neuroscience gig, according to columnist and would-be comedian Jonah Goldberg, is taking pictures of dogs brains — while they're still in the dogs' heads and the dogs are healthy and happy.

That's the job of Dr. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University and the author of What It’s Like to Be a Dog, who has concluded that dogs don't fake love. They really do love us.

Here's how Goldberg describes the study:

Berns and his team confirmed this through a host of tests that looked at different centers of the doggie brain and how they responded to different stimuli. In one test they alternated between giving the pooches hot dogs (the food, not Dachshunds) and offering them praise. Looking at the pleasure centers of the dogs’ brains, the researchers found that nearly all the dogs responded to “Who’s a good boy?! You are!” (or whatever they actually said) with at least as much pleasure as when they got a Hebrew National. A fifth of the dogs actually preferred praise to food. Berns concluded that dogs derive as much pleasure from love as from food.

Assuming that dogs aren't particular about what kind of hot dog they prefer, this is good news for humans, especially those who see a mutual benefit in the dog-human relationship.

Dogs obviously evolved to depend on humans, but humans also evolved to depend on dogs. From our genes’ perspective, we love our children to ensure that our DNA lives to see another day. But that’s not how we consciously think about it, nor does that explanation diminish the experience of love or make it any less real. Dog genes may be designed to con us, but the dogs themselves aren’t in on the caper. They just love us, because that’s what dogs do.

Does your dog love you? How do you know?