Everyone knows that the breeding of dogs can affect their looks from the top of their (narrow/wide/flat/elongated) heads to the tip of their (curly/straight/bushy/skinny) tails. A new study in the journal PLoS ONE shows that breeding dogs to conform with certain shapes and sizes can also affect the structure and size of dogs’ brains.
Dog breeding has induced all kinds of changes in dogs, so it makes sense that the brain could be altered according to breed. The scientists behind the MRI-based study found that the position of certain areas of the brain, like the olfactory lobe (related to a dog’s ability to smell), were affected by breed. The findings were independent of brain size or body weight, researchers wrote in their paper, Human Induced Rotation and Reorganization of the Brain of Domestic Dogs.
It’s a no-brainer, I suppose, that the shape of a dog’s skull could affect the position of certain parts of the brain. But it begs the question: Do differences in brain structure affect behavior? For instance, does my yellow Lab’s propensity for finding ancient cookie crumbs have something to do with a giantic olfactory lobe, driven perhaps by a super efficient sweet-tooth lobe?
The study concludes that “dogs with different skull shapes may behave differently… Further investigation of the inter-relationships between skull shape, brain organization and behavior represent fascinating directions for future canine research.”
What do you think, Dogsters?