Your adventure companion might understand you more than previously thought.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Why Your Dog Is Your Best Friend

Voice-sensing abilities similar to humans

Have you ever felt like your dog just understood you? Turns out, you might be more correct than you'd have guessed. For the first time, scientists have compared human brain function to a nonprimate species—and what they found in the study, which researched how dogs process voices, is fairly astounding.

According to research published in the journal Current Biology, the areas of the brain controlling voice interpretation evolved at least 100 million years ago, which is also around the time when humans and dogs diverged from a common evolutionary ancestor. So, that connection you feel with your dog? Humans and dogs have had this connection for tens of thousands of years, thanks to behavioral and neural similarities in their brains.

"Dogs and humans share a similar social environment," says Attila Andics of Hungary's MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group. "Our findings suggest that they also use similar brain mechanisms to process social information. This may support the successfulness of vocal communication between the two species."

To study how canine brains responded to dog and human sounds, scientists loaded the dogs into MRI scanners (yes, that is absolutely as cute as it sounds) and then played both types of noises. The researchers then did the same with humans and discovered that the brains of both species responded in similar spots to the sounds. Dogs responded more strongly to other dogs, and humans responded more strongly to other humans—but both species processed the sounds in similar parts of the brain.

Predictably, dogs also proved more responsive to nonvocal sounds, while humans were sensitive to vocal cues.

The most striking similarity appeared in how dogs and humans processed the emotions behind sounds. The primary auditory cortex became more active when subjects heard happy sounds rather than unhappy ones. That aspect was consistent across species.

"This method offers a totally new way of investigating neural processing in dogs," Andics says. "At last we begin to understand how our best friend is looking at us and navigating in our social environment."

We can only assume that cats lack this brain function.


Outside Magazine News

Snow Leopard are very difficult to see in the wild. Getting a picture is another story.     Photo: Thinkstock

Snow Leopard Kill Caught on Camera

First-ever images captured by guide in Himalayas

On a snow leopard tour through the Himalayas, guide Adam Riley captured possibly the first-ever images of a snow leopard kill. With fewer than 60 of these cats estimated to be left in this particular region, the photos are a stunning achievement.

The scene was captured in Hemis National Park in northern India, which is the largest national park in South Asia and ideal snow leopard habitat. The series of images shows the leopard stalking a small herd of blue sheep in a steep, rocky area. As a group of younger sheep gets separated, the hunt begins:

These images were taken by Indri Ultimate Wildlife Tours guide Adam Riley.


Sochi Wolf Sighting a Hoax

By Jimmy Kimmel

U.S. luger Kate Hansen is the girl who tweeted wolf. 

The Olympic athlete teamed up with comedian Jimmy Kimmel to pull off a prank that fooled just about everyone—including us. 

Two days ago she tweeted to her nearly 20,000 followers: "Wolf in my hall?!? #SochiProblems #SochiFail" with the following video included:

The story quickly went viral, but it turns out the video was a fake filmed by Kimmel. The animal you see in the shot? He’s a timber wolf mix named Rugby who played his part by running around the fake Sochi hallway.

Hansen had to deal with some security issues after posting the video—one unexpected problem with the stunt.

“Honestly, there was a little more backlash than I thought there’d be,” Hansen said on a Jimmy Kimmel Live interview Thursday. “Security started freaking out, because technically there was a breach. You know, athlete safety. It kind of went a little crazy over here.”


Obama Loses Beer Bet

To Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

On February 20, the Canadian women's Olympic hockey team won its fourth straight gold medalbeating the U.S. 3-2. 

Before the big match, and those preceding it, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a bet over Twitter. The wager? Beer. 

Looks like Obama owes Harper for last night's women's game, but who will have to pay up after the men's game today?