Tuesday, 10 October 2017 00:00

Gregory Berns, author of What It's Like to be a Dog will join Jon and Talkin' Pets 10/14/17 at 5pm EST to discuss and give away his new book Featured

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They say a dog is a man’s best friend. We certainly treat them like it: we take our dogs to the best vets, to doggy daycare, and to holistic specialists when they are ill. We buy coats and Halloween costumes, and we set them up with their own blogs, Facebook, and Instagram feeds. But do our dogs—and other animals—feel the same way about us? And what exactly does a dog—or a bat or a dolphin for that matter—think and feel in general?

Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University and author of the New York Times bestselling book How Dogs Love Us, pondered these very questions. After viewing photographs of the capture of Osama bin Laden in which dogs were jumping from helicopters under chaotic conditions, Berns had a thought. If a dog could be trained to jump out of a helicopter, why couldn’t a dog be trained to enter an MRI machine? And if that was possible, what if one could compare the functioning of human and dog brains? Berns would be the perfect person to unwrap these mysteries of the animal mind—early in his career he pioneered the use of brain imaging technologies to understand human motivation and decision-making. Could this be a step towards figuring out how dogs think? Berns and his team endeavored to find out.

The results of this experiment is found in Gregory Berns’ groundbreaking new book WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience (Basic Books; September 5, 2017). Berns’ exploration of the inner minds of dogs, as well as other creatures, heralds a new world, one in which complex intelligence is all around us. As Berns explains, understanding how animals think will revolutionize the way we communicate with them and how we treat them.

 

“An impressive overview of modern neurology and the still-unanswered issues raised by our treatment of our fellow living creatures.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Groundbreaking research that shows that dog emotions are similar to people.  Training dogs to voluntarily lie still in the MRI brain scanner was a brilliant way to explore the workings of their brains.  Dog lovers and neuroscientists should both read this important book.”

—Temple Grandin, Author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make us Human

“Gregory Berns is a remarkable scientist, whose pioneering MRI studies of the brain across a range of species have opened up a pathway to deeper understanding of animals’ internal awareness and perspectives.  He’s also an exceptional thinker, whose grasp of the ethical and practical significance of his findings for the status and treatment of animals is pervasive in this absorbing work.”

—Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO, The Humane Society of the United States

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG

And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience

By Gregory Berns

Do our dogs love us? Do they really get *that* excited when we come home? Do they like the toys we have bought for them? Do they have the same undying love and affection for us that we have for them? How would we even know if they do? These questions swirled around neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Berns’ mind when his beloved pug, Newton, passed away. He began to wonder if Newton had loved him as much as he had loved him—or if all the affection and tail-wagging just an evolutionary response to gain more treats.

Determined to seek out the answer to these questions, Berns and his team did something nobody had ever attempted: they trained dogs to go into an MRI scanner—completely awake—so he could figure out what they think and feel. What they found was astonishing—dogs, like people, are individuals. They have varying abilities for self-control, how they understand language, and even whether food or companionship is more important. And all of these traits are being revealed in the brains of these MRI-dogs.

The deeper Berns dug into the dog brain, the more obsessed he became with learning about other animals. What if a dog could tell us exactly how she felt? And what would a pig say about a slaughterhouse? What did a whale think about all the noise flooding the ocean from ships and submarines? The result of these investigations would not only enrich our understanding of the inner world of animals—it would inevitably force us to rethink how we treat them.

Now, after five years of research, WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience (Basic Books, September 5, 2017) lays out what Berns and his team learned. Organized in the order in which Berns and his team endeavored to look at various species, WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG shows us that each animal analysis conducted has a connecting aspect: the structures in the brains of animals are organized in the same way as corresponding parts of our own brains. And not only did these parts look the same, but they functioned in the same way—from dogs and cats to dolphins, sea lions, and even the extinct Tasmanian tiger.

With empathy and humor, Gregory Bernsshows us how animal brains are similar to humans and that we can understand what it is like to be a dog, or a dolphin. His results prove that animals have many experiences and feelings in common with humans. This leads to a startling reconsideration of the rights of animals and the relationships we have with them.

As Berns explains, “All neuroscience is comparative at some level, but few neuroscientists dig deep and ask why the brains of animals look the way they do and how that relates to their mental experiences. These are hard questions. They get at the heart of what makes us human, and they raise troubling issues about the possibility that we may not be that different from many of the creatures with whom we share the planet.”

Many of the world’s species are disappearing at an alarming rate, with the WWF estimates that two-thirds of many species populations may be gone by 2020. In WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG, Berns hopes to raise awareness of the mental lives of the animals with whom we share the planet—and in doing so, provide a new manifesto for animal liberation of the 21st century.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gregory Berns is a distinguished professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, where he directs the Center for Neuropolicy and Facility for Education and Research in Neuroscience. He is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller How Dogs Love Us. He lives in Atlanta. Follow him at @gberns

ABOUT THE BOOK:

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG

And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience

By Gregory Berns

Published by Basic Books

Publication date: September 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09624-4 · $28.00 / $36.50 CAN · Hardcover · 320 pages

E-book ISBN: 978-0-465-09625-1

Advance Praise for

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG

And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience

By Gregory Berns

(Basic Books; September 5, 2017)

“The author explains that his purpose in writing this book is ‘to raise awareness of the mental lives of the animals with whom we share the planet.’ In that, he succeeds. An impressive overview of modern neurology and the still-unanswered issues raised by our treatment of our fellow living creatures.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“It’s the rare neuroscientist who has the patience and curiosity to train dogs to hop into an MRI machine, tails wagging. Or delve into the mysteries of the dolphin brain. Or venture to the far side of the globe to find the brain of an extinct, yet still fascinating species: the thylacine. Thankfully, Gregory Berns did all of these things. In this big-hearted book, he applies cutting-edge science to questions that have never been so timely: How do other animals perceive their worlds? How do they experience emotions? How does their language work? What It’s Like to Be a Dog is a delightful, illuminating look at the minds and lives of our fellow creatures.”—Susan Casey, author of Voices in the Ocean: A Journey Into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins

“Have you ever wanted to peek inside the mind of a dog? Gregory Berns’ brain scanner does precisely that. But this book also contains many remarkable insights into the inner lives of other animals. Dolphins, sea lions, raccoons, Tasmanian devils – even the long-extinct Tasmanian tiger – they’re all here. A fascinating journey towards an understanding of what dogs – and their mammalian cousins – might be thinking about us.” —John Bradshaw, author of the New York Times bestsellers Dog Sense and Cat Sense and the forthcoming The Animals Among Us

“Berns has done it again; woven a compelling story with a scientific revolution. From building an MRI simulator in his living room to tracking down one of the four remaining brains of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, Berns takes us on an incredible journey of exploration and discovery. Marvelously written and intellectually engaging, What It’s Like to Be a Dog will establish Berns as one of the most skilled neuroscientists of our day, as well someone with the intuition that understanding other animals will lead to greater insight and knowledge about ourselves.” —Dr. Brian Hare, New York Times Bestselling author of The Genius of Dogs

“Dr. Gregory Berns’ new book is a fascinating read. Packed with personal stories, What It’s Like to Be a Dog clearly lays out just who these amazing beings are, from the inside out. We can now learn what each individual animal wants and needs to have the best life possible in a human-centered world, and what we must do to make sure they do.”—Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, author of The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age and Canine Confidential: An Insider's Guide to the Best Lives for Dogs and Us

“We know a lot about the intelligence of animals and nearly nothing about their brains. Greg Berns is changing all of this by means of noninvasive techniques that respect the animals. He is boldly going where no one has gone before, offering a lively, eye-opening peek into his neuroscience kitchen.”—Frans de Waal, author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

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