Kujala MV, Kujala J, Carlson S, et al.
We read conspecifics’ social cues effortlessly, but little is known about our abilities to understand social gestures of other species. To investigate the neural underpinnings of such skills, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the brain activity of experts and non-experts of dog behavior while they observed humans or dogs either interacting with, or facing away from a conspecific. The posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) of both subject groups dissociated humans facing toward each other from humans facing away, and in dog experts, a distinction also occurred for dogs facing toward vs. away in a bilateral area extending from the pSTS to the inferior temporo-occipital cortex: the dissociation of dog behavior was significantly stronger in expert than control group. Furthermore, the control group had stronger pSTS responses to humans than dogs facing toward a conspecific, whereas in dog experts, the responses were of similar magnitude. These findings suggest that dog experts’ brains distinguish socially relevant body postures similarly in dogs and humans.