It is no coincidence that dogs are known to be man’s best friend. Playful and interactive; protective and observant – many individuals and families choose to adopt dogs, taking them in as integral members of their household. But, a recent study has shown that dogs are not simply fun playmates. Rather, physical contact with our furry friends serves an important role in our emotional and mental health.
A study published in PLOS ONE last month uncovers a lot of information about dogs and the benefits they provide to their owners. When petting a dog, the frontal cortex of the brain is stimulated. This is the area which regulates our thought processes and feelings. The lead author of the study, Rahel Marti, explains the premise of the study: “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.”
The fact that physical contact has this effect on human brains is a critical finding. It emphasizes the idea that animal therapy can positively impact cognitive and emotional activity in the brain. It also strengthens existing research on using animal-assisted therapy on people who have experienced trauma related to the nervous system, such as strokes, seizures, certain infections, and more.
Furthermore, the study demonstrated that brain activity increased when participants were physically closer to the pups, and boosted even further when actually touching the dog. It also showed that the brain response was more present when touching a real dog versus a stuffed animal.
So, next time your children beg for a pet dog, you may consider the benefits of giving in to their wishes.