GREGORY BERNS M.D. / Ph.D.
We are ready to move forward with a program aimed at extending this technology to tackle questions more deeply related to how dogs perceive and understand their environment. We want to use fMRI to undertake a comprehensive mapping of visual and olfactory perception in the dog brain: from the conditioning of simple stimuli, to the processing of complex stimuli, to the integration of multimodal stimuli. By first understanding how and what dogs perceive, this will result in a greater understanding of their behavior.
Having identified neural markers of good service dogs, can this approach be applied to other dogs – like dogs in shelters? Are there neural markers that could identify the characteristics of dogs that are better suited to adoption? Or to identify better matches with adoptive homes? Because the MRI training teaches self-control, it may even turn out that learning to lay still in the MRI generalizes to other situations. MRI-training may make dogs more adoptable, and, in the process, potentially reduce the number of dogs euthanized in shelters every year.
Apart from a small amount of funding from the Navy, no government agency supports research like this. But dogs are important to us, and they need your help to take these projects to the next level. Over the next five years, we would like to train 1000 dogs for MRI. We aim to fully map how they think and create new ways to detect health problems when they are still curable. Our fund-raising goal is $5M.
To achieve this fundraising goal, we’re looking for patrons who can support the project at a level of $10,000, or higher. Contributions can be made directly (https://securelb.imodules.com/s/1705/giving/index.aspx?sid=1705&gid=3&pgid=600&cid=1358&dids=9903&bledit=1&appealcode=W5GBR), or contact us to discuss details.
Join the Team! If you live in the Atlanta area, and your dog is already good at basic obedience (especially an extended down-stay), sign-up for a tryout. Ideal characteristics of the dog: calm, good in novel environments, good with strangers, good with other dogs, curious, unafraid of loud noises, unafraid of heights, and able to wear to ear muffs or ear plugs. If selected to join the Team, you will learn how to train your dog to take an MRI. The training takes 2-4 months with biweekly classes at CPT in Sandy Springs and 10-minute daily practice at home. Given the amount of work that goes into training, we are looking for dogs who can stay with the project for several years and participate in multiple experiments.
Want more information?
Email: gberns at emory dot edu
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