Learning & Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 561–573 | Cite as

Separate brain areas for processing human and dog faces as revealed by awake fMRI in dogs (Canis familiaris)

  • Andie M. Thompkins
  • Bhavitha Ramaiahgari
  • Sinan Zhao
  • Sai Sheshan Roy Gotoor
  • Paul Waggoner
  • Thomas S. Denney
  • Gopikrishna Deshpande
  • Jeffrey S. KatzEmail author


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has emerged as a viable method to study the neural processing underlying cognition in awake dogs. Working dogs were presented with pictures of dog and human faces. The human faces varied in familiarity (familiar trainers and unfamiliar individuals) and emotional valence (negative, neutral, and positive). Dog faces were familiar (kennel mates) or unfamiliar. The findings revealed adjacent but separate brain areas in the left temporal cortex for processing human and dog faces in the dog brain. The human face area (HFA) and dog face area (DFA) were both parametrically modulated by valence indicating emotion was not the basis for the separation. The HFA and DFA were not influenced by familiarity. Using resting state fMRI data, functional connectivity networks (connectivity fingerprints) were compared and matched across dogs and humans. These network analyses found that the HFA mapped onto the human fusiform area and the DFA mapped onto the human superior temporal gyrus, both core areas in the human face processing system. The findings provide insight into the evolution of face processing.


fMRI Connectivity Dog cognition Dog neuroimaging Face processing 

Supplementary material

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Fig. S1 (DOCX 200 kb)
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Fig. S2 (DOCX 226 kb)
13420_2018_352_MOESM3_ESM.docx (163 kb)
Fig. S3 (DOCX 163 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andie M. Thompkins
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bhavitha Ramaiahgari
    • 3
  • Sinan Zhao
    • 3
  • Sai Sheshan Roy Gotoor
    • 3
  • Paul Waggoner
    • 4
  • Thomas S. Denney
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
  • Gopikrishna Deshpande
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Jeffrey S. Katz
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  2. 2.Hand in Paw, Inc.BirminghamUSA
  3. 3.AU MRI Research Center, Department of Electrical & Computer EngineeringAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  4. 4.Canine Detection Research InstituteAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  5. 5.Alabama Advanced Imaging ConsortiumAuburn University and University of Alabama BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  6. 6.Center for NeuroscienceAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  7. 7.Center for Health Ecology and Equity ResearchAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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