Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The Department of Defense's research arm has proposed a new way to recruit military working dogs - by scanning the pups' brains.
Wired.com's military blog Danger Room reports that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has a proposal on the table to select military working dogs based on MRI scans that show which pooches are the brightest.
DARPA describes the proposal, called FIDOS (Functional Imaging to Develop Outstanding Service-Dogs), this way:
The objective of this effort is two-fold; first, to optimize the selection of ideal service dogs, both in operational military and therapy environments, and second, to use real-time neural feedback to optimize canine training, shortening training duration, reducing costs, and increasing learned responses.
DARPA's eagerness to use brain scans as a way of recruiting stems from an Emory University study that showed changes occurred in dogs' brains when they were given rewards for good behavior, according to Danger Room:
Emory University neuroscientist Greg Berns and his colleagues trained dogs to sit unrestrained inside an MRI machine, shown hand signals associated with a food reward, and then scanned. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers noticed increased brain activity in the dogs’ ventral caudate, a region of the brain associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine.
I think the most impressive part is the fact that dogs can be trained to hold still in an MRI machine. I've had just one MRI, and I found it extremely difficult not to move. Good dog!