Last September, brainiologists figured out that they could read people's minds by sticking them in an fMRI machine and tracking thought patterns. Scientists at Emory University have taken the obvious next step and put dogs in an fMRI machine to figure out what they're thinking. Here's a hint: steak. Steak. Bacon. Steak.
Reading the mind of a dog is exactly the same as reading the mind of a human. An fMRI machine can record patterns of brain activity in real time, and if you put a dog in the machine and give it a signal that means "treat," you can record the brain pattern that shows up. Then, whenever the dog is in the machine and thinks about a treat, you'll see that same pattern and you'll know what's on the dog's mind.
For this to work, the dogs have to be specially trained to hold their heads still inside an fMRI machine, which (if you've ever had the chance to get your brain scanned) you know is not only a very small space, but also a very loud one. There are two participants in the first phase of the Emory study: a three-year-old Border Collie named McKenzie, and Callie, a two-year-old Feist, or southern squirrel-hunting dog (SQUIRREL!). From the sound of things, both of these dogs performed like champs, and researchers seem optimistic that they'll be able to delve deeper into the canine consciousness with subsequent studies. For example, do dogs really have empathy? Can they really tell when you're happy or sad and share those emotions with you? Or are they just secretly hoping that if they act like they care you'll give them some extra steak?