Researchers in Hungary studied dogs’ ability to distinguish between different human languages.
An experiment designed to see where and how the brain would light up when exposed to familiar versus unfamiliar languages, or natural speech versus scrambled speech.
The brain scans showed different activity patterns in the primary auditory cortex when nonsense words were spoken than when natural speech occurred.
It also showed unique areas of the brain that became active when an unknown language was spoken versus when familiar speech was heard.
Those results maybe not be at all surprising — until you realize that the 18 subjects were dogs.
Two of the 18 subjects were familiar with Spanish but had never heard the language of Hungary.
“The interesting thing here is that there was a difference in the (dogs’) brain response to the familiar and the unfamiliar language,” said Attila Andics, head of the department of ethology (the study of animals) at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, who lead the experiment.
“This is the first nonprimate species for which we could show spontaneous language ability — the first time we could localize it and see where in the brain this combination of two languages takes place,” Andics said.