Thursday, March 6, 2014

Selective breeding changes dog brain function and physiology

For at least 12,000 years, humans have bred domestic dogs for appearance and other qualities. This has resulted in some breed specific ailments, such as hip problems in German Shepherds and Pug Encephalitis. Now we also know that the brains of many short-snouted dog breeds have rotated forward as much as 15 degrees, relocating vital areas of the brain.

Pug, image from Wikimedia
Researchers from the University of New South Wales and University of Sydney used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on a wide range of breeds. In pug-like breeds, the brain region controlling smell has relocated to the lowest position in the skull.

Doctor Valenzuela says, "Canines seem to be incredibly responsive to human intervention through breeding." and adds that no other animal has enjoyed the level of human affection and companionship like the dog, nor undergone such a systemic and deliberate intervention in its biology through breeding. The diversity suggests a unique level of plasticity in the canine genome.

While we assume that dogs live in a world dominated by smell, the relocation of the brain might mean that one dog's perception is completely different from another's.

The next step for the research will be to investigate if the difference in brain organization are linked to differences in brain function.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Source: Science Daily


  1. Replies
    1. I've never thought about it, but it makes sense that the brain would have to adapt to all these shapes and sizes. The world is interesting!