Reading a dog’s mind

7 minutes

What is your dog really thinking? MRI brain scans might soon provide the answer

Psychologists and philosophers – not to mention pet owners – have long wondered whether we can ever get past the constraints of the human mind to truly know what it’s like to be another animal. The US neuroscientist Gregory Berns, however, believes that the problem of animal consciousness has been overstated, and that emerging brain science and MRI technology could go a long way towards getting us inside the minds of other creatures. In his lab at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Berns and a volunteer team of dog owners train their canine companions to become comfortable inside MRI machines so that they can be scanned safely in a relaxed, conscious state. By reading their brain activity and using our understanding of the human brain for reference, Berns believes that he can glean a wide range of insights about the experience of dogs, including the range of their emotions, the diversity of their personalities, and even whether they can differentiate between two- and three-dimensional images.

Producers: Chelsea Fiske, Brandon Swanson

Website: Science Friday

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter
Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
The theory of mind myth

Even experts can’t predict violence or suicide. Surely we’re kidding ourselves that we can see inside the minds of others

Robert Burton

Social Psychology
In extremis

As Hannah Arendt argued, there is one common thread which connects individuals drawn to all kinds of extremist ideologies

Nabeelah Jaffer