A new study suggests that dogs can use their highly sensitive noses to “see” as well as smell.
Researchers have discovered a “big pathway” in the brains of domestic dogs linking areas responsible for smell and vision.
This allows dogs to have a wonderful sense of direction and awareness even when they cannot see, which explains how some blind dogs can play fetch.
Dogs’ strong sense of smell can help them detect and distinguish between various objects and obstacles, even if they are blind.
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Researchers have found a “broad pathway” in the brain of domestic dogs connecting areas responsible for smell and vision, which likely helps them know where objects are even if they can’t see.
WHAT IS THE RE-DISCOVERED PATH?
Researchers have discovered a “vast pathway” in the brain of domestic dogs between the olfactory bulb and the occipital lobe.
The olfactory bulb is a structure located in the vertebrate forebrain that receives neural information about odors.
Meanwhile, the occipital lobe is the visual processing area of the brain associated with distance and depth perception, color detection, and more.
A new study provides the first evidence that dogs’ sense of smell is integrated with vision and other unique parts of the brain.
“We have never seen such a relationship between the nose and the occipital lobe, the functional visual cortex, in dogs, in any species,” said study author Pip Johnson, assistant professor of clinical science at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
“When we enter a room, we first of all use our vision to understand where the door is, who is in the room where the table is.
“While in dogs, this study shows that the sense of smell is indeed integrated with vision in terms of how they learn about and navigate their environment.”
A new study confirms Johnson’s clinical experience with blind dogs that function perfectly despite not being able to see.
“They can still play fetch and navigate their environment much better than people with the same condition,” she said.
“Knowing that there is an information highway running between these two areas can be extremely comforting for owners of dogs with terminal eye conditions.”
However, exactly how blind dogs use their sense of smell to see objects is unclear, Johnson added.
“Veterinarians have long wondered how completely blind dogs navigate their environment so well, even in a foreign and new environment,” she told MailOnline.
“The olfactory link we found gives us an answer to this question and shows that they are less dependent on their eyes alone and likely use olfactory information to navigate their world.”
In the dog’s brain, information pathways run from the olfactory bulb (lower left) to five different areas. A newly discovered link (shown in orange) connects the olfactory system to the occipital lobe, the visual processing area. Other networks (blue and pink) connect the olfactory bulb to areas of the brain associated with memories and emotions.
Eileen Jenkin, a veterinarian with the Huntsville Veterinary Services and Emergency Department in Alabama, who was not involved in the study, called the new results “amazing.”
“There were a lot of people who suggested that this link exists based on the behavior of trained dogs and scout dogs, but no one has been able to prove it,” she said. Science news.
For the study, the team performed MRIs of the brains of 23 dogs — 20 mixed breeds and three beagles — to create digital 3D maps.
The researchers then identified areas of white matter that transmit signals between brain regions, each of which is somewhat reminiscent of a “road network”.
The map showed roads connecting the olfactory bulb to areas of the brain associated with memories and emotions.
Humans also have this network, so the smell of certain smells seems to take us into the past.
But what was surprising was the new information pathway from the olfactory bulb to the occipital lobe, the visual processing area in the brain.
Video: The orange structure shows the entire olfactory pathway in dogs, going to several different areas of the brain, including the occipital lobe.
“This is the first documentation of a direct connection between the olfactory bulb and the occipital lobe in any species, and a step towards further understanding how the dog integrates olfactory stimuli into its cognitive function,” the scientists say.
Finding new connections in the brain of dogs also opens up opportunities for further study, for example, in other mammalian species — perhaps even in humans.
“Seeing this change in the brain allows us to see what is possible in the mammalian brain,” Johnson said.
“Maybe we have a rudimentary connection between these two areas, when we were more ape-like and scent-oriented, or maybe there’s significant variation in other species that we haven’t explored.”
Johnson also told Science News that they are looking to investigate the olfactory tracts of cats.
“Cats also have the most amazing olfactory system and probably more connections than the dogs I see,” she said.
EXPERTS BELIEVE DOGS BRAIN ARE NOT FINISHED TO RESPOND TO THE HUMAN FACE
Dogs’ brains aren’t programmed to recognize human faces, but pet dogs have learned to recognize their owners by sound and smell, according to a new study.
Although humans use faces for visual communication, they don’t have a special status in the dog’s brain, according to scientists from Eötvös Lorand University, Hungary.
Using an MRI scanner, the team monitored brain activity in both humans and dogs by watching two-second videos showing human faces and the back of their heads.
Animal results showed that no part of their brain responded specifically to faces, but in humans, the visual cortex lights up when it sees a face.
The researchers point out that the reason dogs pay attention to human faces is because they have evolved to depend on their owners and have developed methods to recognize them.