Can dogs recognize different languages ​​spoken?

Brain research: dogs process language in a similar way to humans

Dogs understand how to talk to them - and even what to tell them. This is suggested by a sophisticated series of experiments, the results of which scientists working with Attila Andics from the Hungarian Eötvös-Loránd University published in the specialist magazine "Science" in 2016: According to this, the four-legged friends not only recognize by their tone of voice what their masters want from them, but also understand them the meaning of individual words such as "barrel" or "sit" - even if they are spoken in a monotonous voice. But that's not the only thing that humans and dogs have in common when it comes to understanding speech. Apparently, the tone and content of the animal's brain are processed on a similar level as in humans. This is shown by a follow-up experiment reported by Andics' team in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers again played various praising phrases ("Good boy!", "Well done!") And neutral expressions ("as if", "anyway") to their test dogs - sometimes in a neutral, sometimes in a friendly voice. At the same time, they used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine what was happening in the animals' heads. Andics and his colleagues were already able to observe in 2016 that the dog's brain processes word content and intonation in different hemispheres. But now they also discovered that the hierarchy of language processing also matched that in the human brain: As in humans, it was primarily subcortical areas that recognized the tone of the spoken words. Downstream cortical areas were responsible for decoding the content.

This article is contained in Spectrum Psychology, 6/2020 (November / December)

"Although human language processing is unique in many ways, this study reveals exciting similarities between us and a species without a language of its own," says Attila Andics. The hierarchical form of language processing, which has now also been discovered in dogs, is probably based on a fundamental working principle of the brain: it is already known from numerous other areas that emotionally charged stimuli are recorded on the lower processing levels, while more complex information also requires more complex processing steps in the brain.