Results suggest selective breeding altered brain anatomy in dogs – sciencedaily


Dog brain structure varies across breeds and is correlated with specific behaviors, according to new research published in JNeurosci. These results show how, by selectively breeding for certain behaviors, humans shaped the brains of their best friends.

For several hundred years, humans have selectively bred dogs to express specific physical and behavioral characteristics. Erin Hecht and colleagues studied the effects of this selective pressure on brain structure by analyzing magnetic resonance imaging scans of 33 breeds of dogs. The research team observed a large variation in the structure of the brain that was not simply related to the size of the body or the shape of the head.

The team then looked at the areas of the brain with the most variation between races. This generated maps of six brain networks, with proposed functions varying from social bond to movement, each associated with at least one behavioral characteristic. Variation in behavior between races was correlated with anatomical variation in the six brain networks.

The study of neuroanatomical variation in dogs offers a unique opportunity to study the evolutionary relationship between brain structure and behavior.

The article, “Significant Neuroanatomical Variation Among Domestic Dog Breeds,” appeared online September 2, 2019 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Authors: Erin E. Hecht, PhD., Harvard University; Jeroen B. Smaers, PhD., Stony Brook University; William J. Dunn, Michigan State University; Marc Kent, DVM, DACVIM, University of Georgia in Athens; Todd M. Preuss, PhD., Emory University; and David A. Gutman, MD, PhD., Emory University.

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Jeanetta J. Stewart

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