07/10/2013 08:05 BST | Updated 07/10/2013 12:26 BST

Man's Best Friend? Dogs Have Feelings And Emotions Like Humans, Says Study

Next time your dog-owner friend fusses incessantly over their pooch, don't roll your eyes. According to new research, our canine friends have emotions just like humans - meaning a little TLC could be just what they need.

Analysing MRI scans from his dog's brain, professor of neuroeconomics Gregory Berns has discovered that dogs use the same part of the brain to feel as humans do.

Due to the impenetrable language barrier, humans are unable to ask a dog how they feel. So science resorts to MRI scans to monitor brain activity.

dog man

The problem, as Berns writes in The New York Times, is that MRI scanners are loud and to keep a dog in the scanner for long enough, they are usually sedated with anaesthetic.

"But you can’t study brain function in an anaesthetised animal," writes Berns. "At least not anything interesting like perception or emotion."

To combat this problem Berns trained his dog Callie, a skinny black terrier mix, to rest her head in a custom-fitted chin rest and stay still for 30 seconds during the scan.

They found a similarity between the structure and function of the caudate nucleus, a region of the brain that anticipates things we enjoy such as food, love and money.

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In dogs, the activity in this part of the brain increased in response to hand signals related to food and smells of familiar humans.

But if you think this means dogs really are man's best friend, the relationship may be more one-sided that we hoped.

"Do these findings prove that dogs love us? Not quite. But many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate", said Berns.

He adds that dogs' ability to experience positive emotions, means that they have the same level of sentience to that of a human child.

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