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Dogs' social skills linked to Oxytocin Sensitivity Just Like People

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Posted on Sep 25, 2017, 5 p.m.

While there are many wide genetic variations in breeds and behaviors of modern day K-9’s, the research group led by Professor Per Jensen in Linköping, offers explanations of why different dogs cooperate with humans. One interesting finding comes as no surprise to any dog lover or owner in their ability to both assist and ask for assistance in conjunction with their humans, chores, and problem solving.

According to a new study from Linköping University, Sweden, and published in the scientific journal Hormones and Behavior, dogs seeking contact with their owners is associated with the hormone oxytocin. This information seems to explain how and why dogs have evolved from wild, wolf-like state to that of domestic pet and companion. Unlike their earlier predecessors, todays dog has developed a unique ability to live and work with humans in a most interesting and devoted way.

While there are many wide genetic variations in breeds and behaviors of modern day K-9’s, the research group led by Professor Per Jensen in Linköping, offers explanations of why different dogs cooperate with humans. One interesting finding comes as no surprise to any dog lover or owner in their ability to both assist and ask for assistance in conjunction with their humans, chores, and problem solving.

As previous studies show, Oxytocin plays a role in social relationships in both humans and animals. The researchers suspected that oxytocin is involved in behavioral patterns and problem solving. For this test, researchers selected 60 golden retrievers in an effort to solve an “insoluble problem.” They found that a dogs’ ability to communicate was determined by epigenetic variations of oxytocin receptors. Principal author of the article Mia Persson, PhD student at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, stated, "The first step was to teach the dogs to open a lid, and in this way get hold of a treat. After this, they were given the same task with the lid firmly fixed in place, and thus impossible to open. We timed the dogs to see how long they attempted on their own, before turning to their owner and asking for help,"

To increase the levels of oxytocin in the dogs' blood prior to the behavioral testing, an Oxytocin solution was sprayed into the noses. For the control group saline spray was used instead. The effectiveness of the Oxytocin depends upon the functioning of the cell receptor in each animal. To determine which oxytocin receptor gene each dog possessed, they performed a cheek swab for lab testing. As expected, certain genetic receptor variants responded better than others. The animals that received the oxytocin were much more likely to enlist the help of their owner than those who were given the saline solution.

DNA also from 21 wolves was analyzed at the same time and were found to have identical genetic variations as the test subjects. This seems to indicate that this particular set of genetic variations were probably present some 1500 years ago when wolves began to be domesticated into dogs. Mia Persson says, "The results lead us to surmise that people selected for domestication wolves with a particularly well-developed ability to collaborate, and then bred subsequent generations from these."  Further research is necessary to determine which differences in the genetic material lie behind these effects.

Per Jensen feels that, "Oxytocin is extremely important in the social interactions between people. And we also have similar variations in genes in this hormone system. This is why studying dog behavior can help us understand ourselves, and may in the long term contribute to knowledge about various disturbances in social functioning,".

Source

By: Dr. Michael J. Koch, Editor for www.WorldHealth.net and Dr. Ronald Klatz, DO, MD President of the A4M which has 28,000 Physician Members, and has trained over 150,000 physicians, health professionals and scientists around the world in the new specialty of Anti-Aging Medicine. A4M physicians are now providing advanced preventative medical care for over 10’s of Million individuals worldwide who now recognize that aging is no longer inevitable.

Original Story Source: Linköping University. "Dogs' social skills linked to oxytocin sensitivity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170918111833.htm>.  Journal Reference:  Mia E. Persson, Agaia J. Trottier, Johan Bélteky, Lina S.V. Roth, Per Jensen. Intranasal oxytocin and a polymorphism in the oxytocin receptor gene are associated with human-directed social behavior in golden retriever dogs. Hormones and Behavior, 2017; 95: 85 DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2017.07.016

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