Animal Cognition

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 867–878

Neurobehavioral evidence for individual differences in canine cognitive control: an awake fMRI study

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10071-016-0983-4

Cite this article as:
Cook, P.F., Spivak, M. & Berns, G. Anim Cogn (2016) 19: 867. doi:10.1007/s10071-016-0983-4


Based on behavioral evidence, the domestic dog has emerged as a promising comparative model of human self-control. However, while research on human inhibition has probed heterogeneity and neuropathology through an integration of neural and behavioral evidence, there are no parallel data exploring the brain mechanisms involved in canine inhibition. Here, using a combination of cognitive testing and awake neuroimaging in domestic dogs, we provide evidence precisely localizing frontal brain regions underpinning response inhibition in this species and demonstrate the dynamic relationship between these regions and behavioral measures of control. Thirteen dogs took part in an in-scanner go/no-go task and an out-of-scanner A-not-B test. A frontal brain region was identified showing elevated neural activity for all subjects during successful inhibition in the scanner, and dogs showing greater mean brain activation in this region produced fewer false alarms. Better performance in the go/no-go task was also correlated with fewer errors in the out-of-scanner A-not-B test, suggesting that dogs show consistent neurobehavioral individual differences in cognitive control, as is seen in humans. These findings help establish parity between human and canine mechanisms of self-control and pave the way for future comparative studies examining their function and dysfunction.


Self-control Motor inhibition Prefrontal cortex Individual differences Dog cognition Comparative cognition fMRI Neuroimaging 

Supplementary material

Supplementary Video 1: Go-No-Go:

This video demonstrates successful neutral, no-go and go trials, as well as a typical false alarm response on a no-go trial. Here the dog (“Callie”) is performing the task in her custom-made chin rest in a training context. (MP4 6475 kb)

Supplementary Video 2: A-Not-B:

This video demonstrates the test phase of the A-not-B procedure with one dog (“Stella”). After three trials of familiarization to location A, the dog is tested in her ability to switch to location B. (MP4 18519 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Comprehensive Pet TherapySandy SpringsUSA

Personalised recommendations