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Petting your dog is good for your brain, study shows

Researchers believe that petting a dog can create emotional involvement, thereby activating the brain

October 7, 2022 5:57am

Updated: October 7, 2022 6:41pm

Thinking of getting a dog? Well, now is the time to get one. A new study published on Wednesday shows that petting your dog can boost your brain activity.

Researchers in Switzerland put brain scanners on 19 individuals to see how they would react while petting a dog versus a stuffed animal. They also analyzed the participant’s reactions differed when they were placed in a room with a dog, sitting next to a dog, or petting a dog.

The results are not surprising: there is a significant boost in brain activity when an individual pets a furry friend, particularly in the frontal cortex—the part of the brain that handles how we think and feel.  

Stuffed animals, on the other hand, did not generate any change in the participant’s frontal cortex, according to the study published by the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers believe that petting a dog can create emotional involvement, thereby activating the brain.

“We chose to investigate the frontal cortex because this brain area is involved in several executive functions, such as attention, working memory, and problem-solving. But it is also involved in social and emotional processes,” said study lead author Rahel Marti, a doctoral student in the division of clinical psychology and animal-assisted interventions at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

The research supports the idea that the use of animals as therapy can help a lot of people dealing with chronic health conditions, emotional stress, or other nervous conditions.

“If patients with deficits in motivation, attention, and socio-emotional functioning show higher emotional involvement in activities connected to a dog, then such activities could increase the chance of learning and of achieving therapeutic aims,” added Marti.