Working Dog Brain Study

Sophie Barton, a graduate student at Harvard University,
in collaboration with the University of Georgia

I’m running a research study on the brains of working dogs. We are currently enrolling Whippets. I came across the Whippet Health Foundation, and I was wondering if any of your members might be interested in participating, or if you might have other suggestions about where I could recruit. Here is some brief info about the study:

We are investigating the neural and behavioral variation in working dog breeds. Particularly, we are interested in the relationship between individual variation in brain organization and predisposition to acquire new learned skills. Our methods include non-invasive MRI brain scanning, behavioral testing, and owner surveys. We are looking for dogs that are actively engaged in breed-specific behaviors (e.g., sighthounds that “hunt” naturalistic lures regularly). If possible, we are also looking for littermate or blood-relative “duds” who don’t show much skill at those same tasks. The study takes place at the veterinary teaching hospital at the University of Georgia under the supervision of a board-certified veterinary neurologist. The owners fill out some surveys about their dogs’ behavior while the dogs get a non-invasive MRI brain scan. The dogs also get a brief health exam and bloodwork to make sure they are safe for MRI. We normally start around 9am and are finished around lunch time, but we can be flexible with scheduling if needed. We can scan up to 2 dogs during a single appointment if necessary.

For more info, see the About page on our website at http://caninebrains.org/. I’d love to hear from you, even if it’s just to point me toward another contact person for recruitment. Feel free to email or call any time. Email is sbarton@g.harvard.edu and my phone number is 470-429-9904. If I’m unable to answer my phone, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you ASAP.