A neuroethologist, Laura Cuaya, and her coauthors designed a study to determine if her dog “could detect a different language.” For the study, they gathered five golden retrievers, six border collies, two Australian shepherds, one labradoodle, one cocker spaniel, and three dogs of mixed ancestry. All the dogs were between 3 and 11 years old and had been previously trained to remain still inside an MRI scanner.
A total of 18 dogs had to wear headsets while a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine droned around their heads. They listened to a female voice read lines in Spanish and Hungarian from the classic children’s book, “The Little Prince.” Then the voice began to say nonsense words. Two of the dogs were familiar with Spanish but not with Hungarian and the rest of the dogs were more familiar with Hungarian.
The experiment was to see where and how the brain would light up in these dogs when exposed to unfamiliar languages. Attila Andics, head of the department of ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest said “This is the first non-primate species for which we could show spontaneous language ability — the first time we could localize it and see where in the brain this combination of two languages takes place,”
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