We all know that dogs are man’s best friend, but did you know that petting them can actually engage the social brain? That’s according to neuroimaging, which shows that when we pet dogs, activity increases in the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex- an area associated with social cognition.
So why does this happen? Well, it’s likely because dogs are such social creatures themselves. When we pet them, they see it as a social interaction and respond accordingly. And it’s not just dogs- Cats, rabbits, and even rats have all been shown to produce similar effects on the brain.
So next time you’re feeling lonely, or just need some extra love, make sure to give your furry friend a good petting! It just might make you feel better.
A new study provides neuroimaging evidence that petting dogs engages the social brain. The study, published in the journal Social Neuroscience, found that when people pet dogs, the prefrontal cortex and posterior superior temporal sulcus – brain regions associated with social cognition – are more active.
This is the first study to use neuroimaging to investigate the neural basis of petting dogs. Past research has shown that petting dogs can reduce stress and anxiety, and that dogs can serve as social catalysts, promoting social interactions between people. However, the neural mechanisms underlying these effects were unknown.
In the new study, participants underwent fMRI while petting either a dog or a stuffed dog. The results showed that petting a real dog was associated with greater activity in the prefrontal cortex and posterior superior temporal sulcus than petting a stuffed dog. These brain regions are important for social cognition, including understanding other people’s thoughts and emotions.
“Our findings suggest that petting dogs engages the social brain,” said study author Kim Brooks, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona. “This may help explain why dogs can be such valuable companions, particularly for people who suffer from social isolation or loneliness.”
The new study provides neuroimaging evidence for the beneficial effects of petting dogs on social cognition. Further research is needed to determine whether these effects are long-lasting, and whether they extend to other types of social interactions.