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The structure of a dog’s brain is affected by how it was raised

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While dogs today are bred largely for looks, they were bred mainly for behaviour. This is reflected in the brain structures of dogs who have similar skills, according to a new study.

The study looked at the genes of 4,000 dogs. Among domestic animals, semi-domesticated and wild dogs, such as wolves and coyotes. They can distinguish between 10 different tribes or lineages, each with its own behavioral characteristics and specializations, such as hunting or herding. If you then look at what the dogs of those different tribes looked like, not every breed would look the same. This indicates that reproduction was primarily based on behavior and cognition in the beginning.

In addition to similar behavioral characteristics, they also saw overlap between genes related to brain development within the different lines. For example, in herding sheep like Border Collies, they saw that the process that ensures neurons in the brain communicate well with each other was more robust in this group. Some of the genes involved are also linked to anxiety and maternal behavior. Something that ensures that the mice keep their young close to the nest. A as yet unproven hypothesis states that this is why sheepherders naturally want to keep the flock together.

Well, as you can see, it’s very hard to explain the study in a minute, but one of the researchers’ hopes is that this new knowledge can also tell us something about the association between behavior and genes in other animal species — like man.

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Read more: Dogs’ brain wiring is affected by human-driven breeding practices. And here: Brains, brawn, or both: What prompted the creation of modern dog breeds?

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