How many times have you told yourself that your dog had no concept of time? It sure seems like they don't. You can leave the house for five minutes or five hours and your dog will have virtually the same exact reaction. Their tail will be wagging so hard it looks like it might just fall off. They might bark a little and jump up and down–all because they missed you! Well, if you thought your dog had no idea what time it was, you were wrong.
Now that we think about it, our dogs sure know when it is time to go outside to go #1 or #2, when it's time to eat breakfast and dinner, and they definitely know when it is time for treats. There is some new proof that suggests dogs do have a good concept on time. Bustle shared the news, which was published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience.
The study was conducted by James G. Heys & Daniel A. Dombeck and just published this week in Nature Neuroscience. The study is titled "Evidence for a subcircuit in medial entorhinal cortex representing elapsed time during immobility." AKA - they studied the area of the brain that computes time. The study was done on mice, where they examined an area of their brain that is associated with memory and navigation.
In a press release, lead author Daniel A. Dombeck said:
"Does your dog know that it took you twice as long to get its food as it took yesterday? There wasn't a good answer for that before. This is one of the most convincing experiments to show that animals really do have an explicit representation of time in their brains when they are challenged to measure a time interval."
To conduct this study and test their hypothesis, the team performed the "Door Stop" test. In the experiment, mice would run on a physical treadmill in a virtual reality environment. The mice were taught to run down a hallway to a door that is located halfway down the track and after six seconds, the door would open and allow the mice to run forward and receive their reward. After researchers ran the test several times in a row, then they made the door invisible to the mice in their virtual reality setting. Even though the door was not visible to the mice, they knew where it was located based on the floor's changing textures. Despite the door not being physically there for them, the mice waited the six seconds at the "door" before they continued racing down the track.
To take their study to the next step, they also looked at the mice's brain activity using two-photon microscopy, which is an advanced way to get high-resolution images of the brain. Dombeck said:
"As the animals run along the track and get to the invisible door, we see the cells firing that control spatial encodin. Then, when the animal stops at the door, we see those cells turned off and a new set of cells turn on. This was a big surprise and a new discovery."