behavior · brain · environment · neuroscience

Human Brain Responds To Animals, Cute Or Creepy : NPR

Humans are hard-wired to spot animals in our environment. Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

Have you ever sworn you knew what your cat was thinking? You may have been right. It turns out we are more tuned into animals and their emotional status than we might think:

Animals have a special place in the human heart. Now, researchers are reporting that creatures great and small also have a special place in our heads.

A team led by researchers at Caltech has found individual brain cells that respond when a person sees an animal, but not when that person sees another person, a place, or an object.

The cells were found in the amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain involved in emotions, including fear. And they responded to any kind of animal, including spiders, dogs and rodents, says Christof Koch, a researcher at Caltech and the lead author of the study, published in Nature Neuroscience.

One reason present-day humans have these cells may be because some animals posed a threat to our ancestors, Koch says. Specialized cells could have helped the brain respond quickly to danger, he says.

more via Human Brain Responds To Animals, Cute Or Creepy : NPR.

I love the idea that urge to cuddle puppies comes from the amygdala, often referred to as the “lizard” part of our brain! It makes sense that as humans we’d survive better if we were more in tune with the animals in our surroundings and whether they wanted to eat us or not.