This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ PrePrints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
Recent behavioral evidence suggests that dogs, like humans and monkeys, are capable of visual face recognition. But do dogs also exhibit specialized cortical face regions similar to humans and monkeys? Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in six dogs trained to remain motionless during scanning without restraint or sedation, we found a region in the canine temporal lobe that responded significantly more to movies of human faces than to movies of everyday objects. Next, using a new stimulus set to investigate face selectivity in this predefined candidate dog face area, we found that this region responded similarly to images of human faces and dog faces, yet significantly more to both human and dog faces than to images of objects. Such face selectivity was not found in dog primary visual cortex. Taken together, these findings: 1) provide the first evidence for a face-selective region in the temporal cortex of dogs, which cannot be explained by simple low-level visual feature extraction; 2) reveal that neural machinery dedicated to face processing is not unique to primates; and 3) may help explain dogs’ exquisite sensitivity to human social cues.