Human-dog relationship: from behaviour to functional brain imaging

Humans and dogs share a long period of close social interaction, shaping each other’s behaviour. So far, only the behavioural aspect of this relationship has been investigated. With the advent of advanced, non-invasive imaging procedures, brain function related to this social interaction may be studied in vivo in both species, and without anesthesia even in dogs. Direct comparison of canine and human fMRI data will be achieved by tailored social cognition tasks and analysis methods optimized for comparative imaging. Access to a new 3T MRI scanner dedicated for comparative canine imaging will allow us to overcome restrictions in using a human scanner; it will also enable us to train dogs in most realistic conditions. Thus, the first part of this PhD project is the efficient but stressless pre-training of up to 30 dogs to meet the requirements of optimal behaviour in the scanner (fully attentive, but motionless and relaxed). Later on there will be conducted behavioural tests and functional brain imaging studies to investigate the human-dog relationship more in detail.

Supervisors: Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Ludwig Huber, Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Claus Lamm, PD Dr. Friederike Range

Project collaborators: Sabrina Karl (PhD student, Vetmeduni Vienna)

Project partner: Magdalene Boch (PhD student, University of Vienna)

Term: September 2017 – August 2020
Funded by: Messerli foundation – in association with “
Doctoral Program Cognition and Communication 1 – DK” (FWF funded)