Anxious Dogs Show Brain Changes Similar to Humans, Study Finds
A study from PLOS One found that the brain activity of anxious dogs and humans behaved similarly.
Anxiety triggered specific regions of their brains collectively dubbed the “anxiety circuit.” As a result, we can gain deeper insight into how this mental disorder work.
The researchers said, “Together with other animal research, [it can] build a bridge to the understanding of human behavior (and vice-versa).”
How did the researchers learn more about anxious dogs?
The research team at Ghent University, Belgium, wanted to learn more about anxiety in humans by observing brain activity in anxious dogs.
Anxiety disorders in humans usually involve high levels of fear, negative expectations, and emotional sensitivity that keep them from living normally.
However, this mental health condition is varied and complex. As a result, patients struggle to cope with anxiety and find treatment.
Canine brains are larger than lab rat brains, and it has parts similar to human brains. As a result, researching anxious dogs could help experts learn more about anxiety.
The Ghent researchers conducted non-invasive functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on 13 anxious dogs and 25 healthy ones.
Also, they asked owners to complete the Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire to confirm the dogs’ anxiety levels.
Results suggested anxious dogs displayed stronger neural connections between the amygdala and other regions of the brain’s anxiety system.
Also, the study said, “dysfunctions of these regions can lead to anxiety symptoms like more fear, less excitability, less trainability, and so on.”
Study author Yangfeng Xu shared more details with IFLScience via email, stating:
“By knowing more about the mechanisms of anxiety in dogs, we can have a better understanding of applying TMS in dogs.”
“From a future clinical viewpoint, the results of our study are therefore relevant for the treatment of patients with anxiety disorders in both human and veterinary medicine.”
Also, the researchers believed their findings “provide important insight into pathophysiological mechanisms of anxiety in dogs.…”
“…which can lead to more personalized and effective therapies, and together with other animal research, build a bridge to the understanding of human behavior (and vice versa).”
If you suspect your dog suffers from anxiety, you should take them to a veterinarian for treatment.