Dogs’ noses work in tandem with their eyes to help see clearly, study finds


Dogs are popular for their sense of smell and the way this ability can be harnessed to search for objects. And now a novel study shows that particular brain structures use this ability to improve their vision.


Researchers studied MRI scans of 23 dogs that revealed neurological connections between the olfactory bulb (which recognizes smells) and their occipital lobe (where vision is processed).

Essentially, the dog’s brain is able to easily transmit information between the two through this connection, which could also allow it to process smells based on images similar to how the human brain processes vision.

However, researchers aren’t quite sure how dogs experience the two senses working together.

The researchers hypothesize that there might be something similar in other animals that are highly dependent on scent. They explain that when humans enter a room, they scan everything in it using their vision. Dogs include smell as input to interpret the environment they are in.

Dogs' noses work in tandem with their eyes to help see clearly, study finds

Veterinary neurologist Philippa Johnson, associate professor at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and lead author of the study, explains, “We already have an indication that their vision is not acute and as complex as human vision. However, we now know that smell is part of their visual processing, so dogs might have a completely different experience of the world than we do.

The team is now planning further studies to study the brains of other animals like cats and horses, which also rely heavily on smell.

She added: ‘A horse’s head is primarily a nasal organ, but they use scent in a different way to dogs because they are prey and they use it to alert themselves. So it will be interesting to see how their nasal systems fit into their brains.

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