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Dog brains more sensitive to dog-directed speech spoken by women

Dogs show greater brain sensitivity to dog-directed speech directed at them by women, new research reveals.

Hungarian researchers at the Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, the Research Centre for Natural Sciences, and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network revealed similarities between infant and dog brains during the processing of speech with exaggerated patterns of rhythm, sound, stress, and intonation.

During an fMRI study trained, conscious family dogs listened to dog-, infant-, and adult-directed speech recorded from 12 women and 12 men in real-life interactions.

Anna Gergely, co-first author of the study, said: “Studying how dog brains process dog-directed speech is exciting, because it can help us understand how exaggerated prosody contributes to efficient speech processing in a non-human species skilled at relying on different speech cues.”

The study, published in Communications Biology, shows that dog auditory brain regions responded more to dog- and infant-directed than to adult-directed speech, which is the first neural evidence that dog brains are tuned to the speech directed specifically at them.

In addition, dog- and infant-directed speech sensitivity of dog brains was more pronounced when the speakers were women and was affected by voice pitch and its variation.

Anna Gábor, co-first author of the study, said: “Dog brains’ increased sensitivity to dog-directed speech spoken by women specifically may be due to the fact that women more often speak to dogs with exaggerated prosody than men.”

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