Washington: A new research has revealed the neurobiological basis of human-pet relationship, suggesting that women respond to their pets in the same way they do to their babies.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigated differences in how important brain structures are activated when women view images of their children and of their own dogs.
Lori Palley, co-lead author, said that pets hold a special place in many people's hearts and lives, and there is compelling evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that interacting with pets can be beneficial to the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of humans.
Palley added that several previous studies have found that levels of neurohormones like oxytocin, which is involved in pair-bonding and maternal attachment, rise after interaction with pets and new brain imaging technologies are helping them begin to understand the neurobiological basis of the relationship, which is exciting.
The imaging studies revealed both similarities and differences in the way important brain regions reacted to images of a woman's own child and own dog and the fusiform gyrus, which is involved in facial recognition and other visual processing functions, actually showed greater response to own-dog images than own-child images.
Co-author Luke Stoeckel said that although this is a small study that may not apply to other individuals, the results suggest there is a common brain network important for pair-bond formation and maintenance that is activated when mothers viewed images of either their child or their dog.
The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.