What It's Like to Be a Dog
"Dog lovers and neuroscientists should both read this important book." --Dr. Temple GrandinWhat is it like to be a dog? A bat? Or a dolphin? To find out, neuroscientist and bestselling author Gregory Berns and his team did something nobody had ever attempted: they trained dogs to go into an MRI scanner--completely awake--so they could figure out what they think and feel. And dogs were just the beginning. In What It's Like to Be a Dog, Berns takes us into the minds of wild animals: sea lions who can learn to dance, dolphins who can see with sound, and even the now extinct Tasmanian tiger. Berns's latest scientific breakthroughs prove definitively that animals have feelings very much like we do--a revelation that forces us to reconsider how we think about and treat animals. Written with insight, empathy, and humor, What It's Like to Be a Dog is the new manifesto for animal liberation of the twenty-first century.

What It's Like to Be a Dog Details

TitleWhat It's Like to Be a Dog
Author
ReleaseSep 5th, 2017
PublisherBasic Books
ISBN-139780465096244
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Science, Animals, Dogs, Biology, Neuroscience

What It's Like to Be a Dog Review

  • Diana
    January 1, 1970
    This book has an easy way to explain things, and it takes you in a comprehensive route through neurocience and the brain and different theories and opinions and facts, which may help you in grounding yourself and giving you a sense of back story knowledge. They also tell you how they did prepare some dogs and trained them to go into the MRI machine and get some results.What I find "ironic" is that I am 50% into the book and still awaiting to know what it is like to be a dog, because we have had This book has an easy way to explain things, and it takes you in a comprehensive route through neurocience and the brain and different theories and opinions and facts, which may help you in grounding yourself and giving you a sense of back story knowledge. They also tell you how they did prepare some dogs and trained them to go into the MRI machine and get some results.What I find "ironic" is that I am 50% into the book and still awaiting to know what it is like to be a dog, because we have had some snippets about it, but the book has been way off the mark of the tittle and more centered on the subtittle: so far, lots of neurocience and brain talk, sea lions and dolphins. But... where are the dogs?Also, around 70% of the book there was some talk abkut how dogs processed words, and it seemed like after getting the results of the experiment, the author was projecting his thoughts on the matter as sciencitic evidence too.At this point and seeing that chapter 9 again deviates from dogs and goes to the tasmanian devil I've decided to stop reading. As I've said, the author's style is fluent, offers a lot of background but, consifering the cover and main tittle, I was expecting this to be mainly about dogs, which isn't.
    more
  • Louise
    January 1, 1970
    This book covers different approaches and findings in recent animal brain research. Those who buy this book to learn about dogs will be disappointed. A lot of space, for the size of the book, is devoted to brain evolution (I learned that jellyfish have neural nets that serve as brains); how sea lions can be trained to dance and the history of and search for the thylacine. The author writes well for the lay audience. He keeps the technical jargon down and uses easy to grasp analogies.The experime This book covers different approaches and findings in recent animal brain research. Those who buy this book to learn about dogs will be disappointed. A lot of space, for the size of the book, is devoted to brain evolution (I learned that jellyfish have neural nets that serve as brains); how sea lions can be trained to dance and the history of and search for the thylacine. The author writes well for the lay audience. He keeps the technical jargon down and uses easy to grasp analogies.The experiments had long anecdotal introductions. For some the results are generally unsatisfying (no fault of the author) but the process and possibilities are provocative. For some, more clarity is needed. For instance: -how did they know the dog recognized a non-object noun vocabulary word? -or how did they know the dogs understood the facial expressions? - did the author actually use the MRI he built in his home; the photos don’t look like the homemade MRI he described or that they were taken in a residence. -Is building an MRI a viable project for the general public? (In this section I learned that the MRI banging comes from the body and not the equipment. Is this generally known?)There are photos of several brains and a discussion of what they can tell about the animal.I liked the chapter at the end that summarizes the legal, ethical and community issues of animal research, not just for medical advances but for pure science.I picked this up because I wanted to know what it is like to be a dog; but that will have to wait. Presuming this is the state of what is known (and the author seems to be on top of it) research has a long way to go.
    more
  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    Berns uses what he’s learned about human cognition and emotion in the title of this book, which promises insights into the understanding of the dog brain. To be fair, the book does discuss experiments and findings involving what happens in a dog’s brain while commands are given and associations are made. But the book goes far beyond the dog to discuss cognition and sentience in animals of many kinds, principally by using evidence from MRI and fMRI brain scans. It is a fascinating look at the stu Berns uses what he’s learned about human cognition and emotion in the title of this book, which promises insights into the understanding of the dog brain. To be fair, the book does discuss experiments and findings involving what happens in a dog’s brain while commands are given and associations are made. But the book goes far beyond the dog to discuss cognition and sentience in animals of many kinds, principally by using evidence from MRI and fMRI brain scans. It is a fascinating look at the study of neuroscience on animals.Despite the density of terms required to study neuroscience, Berns guides us easily through the basics, allowing us to understand the principal goal of their studies on dogs: to determine how dogs process information. I will admit to a degree of awe to think they could manage to get a dog to voluntarily crouch within a noisy MRI machine and stay immoveable long enough to be scanned while the scientists perform tests. Georgia dog trainer Mark Spivak was given a shout-out at the end of this book for his insights and indefatigable efforts to this end.The decades-long work of Peter Cook of the pinniped labs in Santa Cruz, CA is highlighted for several chapters beginning with “Seizing Sea Lions.” Berns and Cook worked together to determine the effects of domoic acid toxicity on normal patterns of connectivity in the brains of dead sea lions. Domoic toxicity caused by agricultural runoff was determined to be the cause of a wave of malnourished sea lion strandings during El Niño years. After the sea lions come dolphins, a discussion of how echolocation manifests in the brain, and some indication how dolphin brains resemble and differ from other mammals. Then back to dogs, where studies have shown a real possibility that rats and dogs may experience regret: regret for choices that do not turn out as desirable as anticipated. Berns acknowledges it is difficult to imagine regret in a rat, but he suggests that our word for it does not limit the experience of the emotion to those who understand the word. From here he moves from “what do words mean to animals”?The detail in his discussion of dog training with words and visual cues may lead other scientists to suggest tweaks that may lead to even greater understanding of the emotional responses of animals. Enough work has been done now on a variety of mammals (and even crows!) to show emotions are a part of their brain activity and daily life. But what appeared to be almost a failure of dogs to recognize words led to a new insight: “It may be that in a dog’s semantic space, actions and things are very close, which would explain why it was so difficult to teach the dogs the names of things. The semantic representation for ‘squirrel’ might be to ‘chase and kill,’ while ‘ball’ becomes ‘chase and retrieve.’…Human represent the world with nouns…it might require a shift in perspective—in this case, from a noun-based worldview to one based in action…In an action-based worldview, everything would be transactional.”In one of the final chapters, called “A Death in Tasmania,” Berns tries something completely different. He writes of his experience traveling to Australia to view the habitat and scan the brain of an Tasmanian Tiger, a marsupial mammal species thought to be extinct. As an experience and as a piece of research, it is as different from his earlier work as studying the brains of placental mammals and marsupial mammals, two animals who evolved differently over millennia. Berns uses narrative nonfiction techniques to situate us visually, historically, physically in “one of the last great wildernesses on Earth…utterly unique and worthy of protection.” The chapter on Tasmania really highlighted Berns’ special skills as a scientist—his ability to look beyond the lab to the wider meanings of neuroscience “for the rest of us,” as he emphasized in his final chapter on the “Dog Lab.” Working for so long on understanding the extent of animal cognition, consciousness, sentience, or self-awareness has led him to animal advocacy, if only for our own selfish reasons. “We, Homo sapiens, might soon be an animal in the eyes of our successors…” given our tinkering and experimentation with the human genome. One day unmodified humans may be considered undesirable, inferior.Berns has skill in involving us, allowing us to follow his work. He would like to map the brains of the Earth’s megafauna with the best science and equipment available today. “The WWF estimates that two-thirds of many species’ populations maybe gone by 2020. [Is 2020 a misprint?] Apart from the ecological catastrophe, scientific opportunities may be lost forever. It is imperative that we begin the archival process for all species, and especially for megafauna…”
    more
  • Ned Frederick
    January 1, 1970
    The title of this book should be, What It's like to be a Neuroscientist. There is precious little new information about the nature of dog consciousness. A lot of interesting questions, and a ton of information about the puzzle and how neuroscientists are trying to solve. After wading through all that, the reader is left with maybe a dozen pages of minor revelations about what it's like to be a dog. Not what I signed up for.
    more
  • Luci
    January 1, 1970
    I received a ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.Fascinating. That's the first word that comes to my mind after finishing this book. We still need to learn so much about the animals and other fellow beings we share this planet with. This book lets the read peek at how science is trying to understand our fellow beings. I myself have dogs and cats. And I often wonder about what they're thinking. Why they behave the way they do. The book gives a brief glimps at how th I received a ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.Fascinating. That's the first word that comes to my mind after finishing this book. We still need to learn so much about the animals and other fellow beings we share this planet with. This book lets the read peek at how science is trying to understand our fellow beings. I myself have dogs and cats. And I often wonder about what they're thinking. Why they behave the way they do. The book gives a brief glimps at how the science world is trying to explain these and other questions. I think we all will look at our pets and other animals differently in the future thanks to research such as the author is describing.FYI the book is not just about dogs. I liked it and I will probably read it again.
    more
  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    The subtitle should be the main title, as this book deals with neuroscience, and not just dogs; a variety of other creatures, including sea mammals and Tasmanian devils, are mentioned. These are all interesting topics, but as a dog person, I probably would not have even given a book about animal brain study a second glance.
    more
  • Jenna
    January 1, 1970
    "What It's Like to be a Dog: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience" is a quite interesting and fascinating book written by neuroscientist Gregory Berns who uses fMRI to scan the brains of animals. He does this in order to learn what it's like to be a dog or a sea lion, a dolphin or a Tasmanian devil, and other mammals. Comparing their brains to those of humans, he has been able to map specific brain regions that are common in all mammals, in order to help us understand more about the inner "What It's Like to be a Dog: And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience" is a quite interesting and fascinating book written by neuroscientist Gregory Berns who uses fMRI to scan the brains of animals. He does this in order to learn what it's like to be a dog or a sea lion, a dolphin or a Tasmanian devil, and other mammals. Comparing their brains to those of humans, he has been able to map specific brain regions that are common in all mammals, in order to help us understand more about the inner life of various animals. At times I found the details about the specificities of the scans a bit tedious but overall found the book very interesting. I was pleased to see that Berns' dog subjects are all voluntary; the dogs themselves are given the choice whether or not they want to participate. The brains of most other subjects are from deceased individuals, and his tests are very humane, unlike many other testing done on non-human animals. This is an important and timely book, as more people are becoming aware of the plight of animals, and realise they should be treated humanely and with compassion. When we realise they too are sentient beings, as we can see from the MRIs, other studies and simple observation, we are more likely to treat them humanely. I should point out that Berns' personal feelings about animal advocacy and rights are contained to just the last chapter of the book, so readers who are concerned they might feel preached at need not worry. This is a book to inform, above all else, what it might be like to be these animals, not to push any certain agenda. There are many other books on that topic for those of us interested, but those who are not should still enjoy "What It's like to be a Dog".Dog lovers will want to read this book, as will anyone who wants to learn more about the brains and inner lives of other mammals.
    more
  • Literary Soirée
    January 1, 1970
    WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG is a totally delightful and fascinating book by Gregory Berns, Emory University Professor of Psychology, and a guy who loves his dog Callie so much that it led to this research. Named one of the "TEN BEST SCIENCE BOOKS OF 2017" by Smithsonian, Berns’ book shares his groundbreaking research using MRI brain scanning to determine how dogs think, feel, use language, and take in their world. He learned that dogs’ emotions are similar to ours, as he trained canines to lie st WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A DOG is a totally delightful and fascinating book by Gregory Berns, Emory University Professor of Psychology, and a guy who loves his dog Callie so much that it led to this research. Named one of the "TEN BEST SCIENCE BOOKS OF 2017" by Smithsonian, Berns’ book shares his groundbreaking research using MRI brain scanning to determine how dogs think, feel, use language, and take in their world. He learned that dogs’ emotions are similar to ours, as he trained canines to lie still ... voluntarily ... in MRI machines while he scanned to explore their brain function.In an interview with Marc Bekoff for Psychology Today, Berns said, “What started with two dogs grew to almost 100, and we began discovering things about how dogs’ minds work. So, much of my new book is about what we discovered. And not just about dogs — about other animals, too.”Berns and his team went on to scan the brains of autopsied dolphins, sea lions, raccoons and even an extinct Tasmanian tiger to extend his understanding of animal neuroscience. He explained, "The overarching theme is that we see startling similarities in how animals’ brains function. This means that all animals — whether dog or human — have many neural processes in common. So when we see the same part of a dog’s brain active as a human’s under similar conditions, the implication is that the dog is experiencing something very similar to us. Also, just like humans, we see tremendous variation in these responses from one dog to another. This means that dogs, like humans, are individuals. We are quickly moving beyond the question of “what it’s like to be a dog” to “what it’s like to be that dog.”  As Bekoff concludes after his discussion with Berns, "All in all, based on neuroimaging and other research, 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."What It's Like to Be a Dog is highly recommended for those who love animals, are interested in neuroscience or just want an absorbing read. 5/5Pub Date 02 Oct 2018 Thanks to Perseus Books, Basic Books and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are fully mine.#WhatIt'sLikeToBeAdog #NetGalley
    more
  • Letitia Moffitt
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating and mostly accessible to the lay-person, this book really made me think about animals differently. The research Berns describes here focuses on neuroscience, specifically scanning brains with MRI, and he's not interested so much in what human activities animals are able to do (language, music, etc.) so much as how the animals experience doing these things. This is eye-opening because so much of the time animals researchers seem determined to prove that certain animals are "as intelli Fascinating and mostly accessible to the lay-person, this book really made me think about animals differently. The research Berns describes here focuses on neuroscience, specifically scanning brains with MRI, and he's not interested so much in what human activities animals are able to do (language, music, etc.) so much as how the animals experience doing these things. This is eye-opening because so much of the time animals researchers seem determined to prove that certain animals are "as intelligent" as humans -- as though equal intellectual ability is the only thing determining a species's worth. Intelligence, however, is relatively easy to measure; sentience is not. Some of the most interesting aspects of this book lie in how researchers came up with ways to measure things that might seem unmeasurable -- for example, how do you discover whether an animal feels regret? (The answer described here is fairly ingenious.) The last three chapters weren't as interesting to me and seemed digressive; two chapters on the thylacine felt thin, and the final chapter, which throws support for animals rights, didn't feel as strongly or clearly argued as it might have been. That said, this was both entertaining and enlightening as a whole, so I give it 4.5 stars.
    more
  • Mary Clare
    January 1, 1970
    Full review!Format: eBook from NetGalleyIn this book, Berns recounts his process and findings in his research on animal neuroscience. While he does spend a fair amount of time on dogs, he also discusses sea lions, Tasmanian tigers, dolphins, and more. Berns moves between personal anecdotes, his own experiences as a researcher, and providing accessible descriptions of his findings, which gives a well-rounded picture of his research.I will admit that I picked up this book mostly for the adventures Full review!Format: eBook from NetGalleyIn this book, Berns recounts his process and findings in his research on animal neuroscience. While he does spend a fair amount of time on dogs, he also discusses sea lions, Tasmanian tigers, dolphins, and more. Berns moves between personal anecdotes, his own experiences as a researcher, and providing accessible descriptions of his findings, which gives a well-rounded picture of his research.I will admit that I picked up this book mostly for the adventures in animal neuroscience about dogs, but I was really pleasantly surprised about how interested I was in even the sections about animals that I only very rarely think of, like sea lions and Tasmanian tigers. I definitely have a personal investment in learning about how dogs experience the world and not nearly as much emotional stake in other animals that he discusses. But over all, I found that his discussion of other animals really enhanced and expanded the topics that he introduced using dogs and ultimately all of the animals that he discussed really complement each other.When it comes to nonfiction books, I am always hesitant to really dive in because you never know how the author is going to approach the book. Sometimes, science writers will assume that you have some knowledge about the topic when you pick up the book and some approach from a more introductory starting point. In this case, I really needed Berns to go back to the basics and explain even very basic and fundamental concepts in the field of neuroscience. And I needed him to explain them in a very accessible way because I am about as far from a neuroscientist as someone can be. I found that this book really fulfilled that need. He really went back to basics and went out of his way to describe everything he researches in the most accessible possible terms. I really appreciate how he managed to reduce really very complicated ideas to bite-size descriptions that allowed me to understand the point he was trying to make.And ultimately, I think that he makes really interesting and important points. Yes, the research is interesting and it was fascinating to get a look into the field of animal neuroscience, especially with such a focus on dogs. But really he is writing this book in order to advocate for the importance of the field as a whole. He is trying to convey to his audience how much can be learned from animal neuroscience and how much knowledge will be lost if we fail to pursue this research, as happened with the Tasmanian tiger. We will lose links in the evolutionary chain and we will ultimately be losing, bit by bit, the potential to fully understand how we (and the dogs we love) came to be.I liked this book a lot and I think that I learned a lot from it. It is presented in an interesting and accessible way. My only criticism is that it is long and I think that this book could have accomplished everything that it accomplished with significantly fewer pages. There were a few long, repetitive sections that could have been trimmed. But, ultimately, that is not a big deal to me. I think that the style, content, and pacing of this book was really well done and I am pretty confident that I am walking away from this book understanding exactly what Berns wanted readers to understand. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. Note: some of my reviews contain spoilers!
    more
  • Carol Chapin
    January 1, 1970
    This book was all over the place. The author is a neuroscientist who used MRI scanning to determine which parts of a dog’s brain are activated by various stimuli. The purpose was to compare animal brain functioning to that of humans, to determine similarities, and thus, how much they are like us.The first part of the book describes how he managed to train dogs to submit to MRI scans while conscious, and how he developed and performed various experiments. It was not a simple task at all. From the This book was all over the place. The author is a neuroscientist who used MRI scanning to determine which parts of a dog’s brain are activated by various stimuli. The purpose was to compare animal brain functioning to that of humans, to determine similarities, and thus, how much they are like us.The first part of the book describes how he managed to train dogs to submit to MRI scans while conscious, and how he developed and performed various experiments. It was not a simple task at all. From there, he went on to analyze the brains of sea lions, dolphins, and thylacines (an extinct Tasmanian marsupial that is a bit like a hyena). He devotes a chapter to how both Aboriginals and thylacines in Tasmania were wiped out by English settlers. There is quite a bit of knowledge in this book, but I didn’t feel like it all fit together very well. One interesting finding was how dogs handle language. They don’t appear to react to nouns, but only to action verbs. But I’m oversimplifying. To quote the author, “…dogs seem to process…words in terms of actions associated with the objects…It may be that in a dog’s semantic space, actions and things are very close…The semantic representation for squirrel might be equivalent to ‘chase and kill’….The fact that we eventually taught the dogs the names of two objects showed that it wasn’t impossible…but imaging…suggested that the mechanism they used for encoding meaning was different from the mechanism that humans use.” This is an interesting difference, but the author also found many similarities between animal and human brain activity. This doesn’t surprise me because I feel that humans are also animals. The author does a good job of explaining his feelings about his research in the second-to-last chapter. He discusses ethical treatment of animals. “The important question now is whether animals are aware of their suffering.” He states that the evidence that animals are self-aware is not at this time conclusive, but that animals are sentient. He also points out that it’s easy to convince people to be more aware of dogs, but that hasn’t been applied to many other animals. He makes convincing arguments to support better treatment of animals. I don’t find fault the with author’s work or with his words. But the book was episodic and disorganized, which made it difficult to read.
    more
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t understand the deeper intricacies of neuroscience, but I am fascinated by it, and as an animal lover, I found this book to be particularly interesting. I read a few reviews of people who didn’t finish because they thought he lost focus or didn’t deliver what they were hoping to get, based on the title. I wonder if the author had put the last chapter of the book, Dog Lab, at the beginning of the book, if it would have made a difference in how many people stuck with it until the end. I tho I don’t understand the deeper intricacies of neuroscience, but I am fascinated by it, and as an animal lover, I found this book to be particularly interesting. I read a few reviews of people who didn’t finish because they thought he lost focus or didn’t deliver what they were hoping to get, based on the title. I wonder if the author had put the last chapter of the book, Dog Lab, at the beginning of the book, if it would have made a difference in how many people stuck with it until the end. I thought the chapter went a long way toward putting his studies, especially the Dog Project, in context, and it very clearly explained his motivation for starting the project. Except for his projections for human evolution at the very end, which struck me as pretty weird, I was on the same page as the author with his views of how we should approach our attitudes and interactions about and with animals. He alternated between being technical beyond my understanding and using a friendlier narrative style that at times felt a little indulgent. If I glossed over some of the details, I found it fairly easy to follow. I don’t know how much was proved through these experiments, but I appreciate the motivation behind them and the careful standards they set for them. Overall, a fascinating read for animal lovers, and I recommend reading the last chapter first.
    more
  • Nolan
    January 1, 1970
    I very much enjoyed this, and it deserves a higher rating than it gets. I realize the title points the way to creatures other than dogs, as does the introduction, but I would have enjoyed a somewhat more narrow topic. That said, this is written with a memorable style that is both easy to understand and always interesting.Essentially, Burns relates his experiences with studying dogs and other animals using MRI technology in an effort to determine how these creatures think and what it might be lik I very much enjoyed this, and it deserves a higher rating than it gets. I realize the title points the way to creatures other than dogs, as does the introduction, but I would have enjoyed a somewhat more narrow topic. That said, this is written with a memorable style that is both easy to understand and always interesting.Essentially, Burns relates his experiences with studying dogs and other animals using MRI technology in an effort to determine how these creatures think and what it might be like to be them. He rejects the idea that it is impossible to know what it's like to be another animal, and his reasons for rejecting that are laid out persuasively and in an easy-to-read manner.If you read only pieces of this, at least read chapter eight, the section on how dogs process language. It will fascinate you and put to rest some of the myths about dogs who are capable of understanding hundreds and hundreds of words. On balance, this is well worth your time and worth an Audible credit if that's the way to choose to read this.
    more
  • Elisa
    January 1, 1970
    This book is not just about dogs, but also sea mammals, marsupials, extinction, conservation, animal rights and many important subjects for animal lovers. One of the chapters, about the extinct Tasmanian tiger, literally made me cry. Other parts, about animal experimentation, I had to skip altogether. This book may be preaching to the choir (honestly, if you’re a heartless [email protected] who enjoys murdering animals, you probably won’t want to hear about how their brains work), but even readers who’ve This book is not just about dogs, but also sea mammals, marsupials, extinction, conservation, animal rights and many important subjects for animal lovers. One of the chapters, about the extinct Tasmanian tiger, literally made me cry. Other parts, about animal experimentation, I had to skip altogether. This book may be preaching to the choir (honestly, if you’re a heartless [email protected] who enjoys murdering animals, you probably won’t want to hear about how their brains work), but even readers who’ve never lived with dogs will find it fascinating.
    more
  • Susan Paxton
    January 1, 1970
    Very interesting book; as others point out the title was badly chosen, and I suspect was selected by the publisher, not the author, as really what the author is doing via neurological research is to try and obtain insights into animal thinking. He started with dogs, since they can easily be trained to remain still in the MRI, then branched out into studies of the brains of dead - and sometimes extinct - animals. It's very interesting, sometimes moving, and offers glimpses into how animals experi Very interesting book; as others point out the title was badly chosen, and I suspect was selected by the publisher, not the author, as really what the author is doing via neurological research is to try and obtain insights into animal thinking. He started with dogs, since they can easily be trained to remain still in the MRI, then branched out into studies of the brains of dead - and sometimes extinct - animals. It's very interesting, sometimes moving, and offers glimpses into how animals experience their world.
    more
  • Maria
    January 1, 1970
    I did enjoy listening to this informational book, despite the fact it was not primarily about dogs. Maybe the title should be "Adventures is Animal Neuroscience, and we'll talk a little bit about dogs too". Well, I guess that also does not sound like a good title, but it would have given a better indication of what was in the book. The somewhat misleading title is really my only complaint with this book. It is well written and interesting. The brain is a complex and fascinating topic, and I was I did enjoy listening to this informational book, despite the fact it was not primarily about dogs. Maybe the title should be "Adventures is Animal Neuroscience, and we'll talk a little bit about dogs too". Well, I guess that also does not sound like a good title, but it would have given a better indication of what was in the book. The somewhat misleading title is really my only complaint with this book. It is well written and interesting. The brain is a complex and fascinating topic, and I was glad to spend some time learning more about it.
    more
  • Jen (Remembered Reads)
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting look through some experiments and developments in non-primate mammalian neuroscience. The studies of dogs and sea mammals were fascinating and will hopefully lead to additional discoveries in the future. The quest to find thylacine brains to run through an MRI was somewhat less so, but it did have a certain old school adventure-science style to it that was charming even if the results themselves were not necessarily particularly interesting.But don't be fooled by the name and the An interesting look through some experiments and developments in non-primate mammalian neuroscience. The studies of dogs and sea mammals were fascinating and will hopefully lead to additional discoveries in the future. The quest to find thylacine brains to run through an MRI was somewhat less so, but it did have a certain old school adventure-science style to it that was charming even if the results themselves were not necessarily particularly interesting.But don't be fooled by the name and the handsome pointer on the cover: This is not a dog book.
    more
  • Jessica Moore
    January 1, 1970
    I keep flip flopping between three and four stars on this!! I, like many others, was hoping for more...dogs. Still, the studies described on other animals were interesting to me. Some parts were slow and thick reading but I feel like I learned a lot! I wouldn’t call this book a pleasure read - it took me a long time to get through- but I found the topic interesting enough to finish :)
    more
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't go into this book hoping to figure out what's going on in my lil' bastard's head, because he's a neurotic little guy (and that's part of his appeal, tbh), but I did come away from this book having a better idea of how to try to communicate with him, especially since my lil' bastard isn't food motivated. An interesting book that spends a LOT of time on tangents (interesting, but nonetheless) and could have used some tightening up.
    more
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    For a book about animal neuroscience, which is admittedly a harder read than a fluffy fiction piece, I certainly enjoyed What It's Like To Be A Dog.Although the title focuses on the dog aspect of the book, the author explores the brains of several other animals. I feel like for what he advertises, there was a reasonable ratio of dog to other animal discussed in the book. I do understand that some readers might have expected it to be mostly about dogs, though.The author's style flows well and it' For a book about animal neuroscience, which is admittedly a harder read than a fluffy fiction piece, I certainly enjoyed What It's Like To Be A Dog.Although the title focuses on the dog aspect of the book, the author explores the brains of several other animals. I feel like for what he advertises, there was a reasonable ratio of dog to other animal discussed in the book. I do understand that some readers might have expected it to be mostly about dogs, though.The author's style flows well and it's quite easy to read, for a subject that doesn't lend itself easily to narrative. There were a few times that I was tempted to skim over, though - mainly explanations about how the MRI machine worked. But I overall enjoyed the structure of he book and how he laid it out fairly chronologically.I was moved by his thoughts on how we treat animals and inspired to make changes in my own life to better respect the creatures we share this planet with.Enjoyable read (though if you have zero interest in science this probably isn't the book for you).
    more
  • David Wineberg
    January 1, 1970
    Thinking Like Animals = Better Communications?What It’s Like To Be A Dog is all over the place. Gregory Berns is passionate about dogs, but his life is neurological investigation. He uses various flavors of MRI to examine and record the brains of all kinds of animals. He has gone to the point of obtaining the pickled brains of extinct animals to scan and analyze. Several chapters deal with his adventures in bureaucracy, trying to borrow the brains and figure out how they worked. Far more than do Thinking Like Animals = Better Communications?What It’s Like To Be A Dog is all over the place. Gregory Berns is passionate about dogs, but his life is neurological investigation. He uses various flavors of MRI to examine and record the brains of all kinds of animals. He has gone to the point of obtaining the pickled brains of extinct animals to scan and analyze. Several chapters deal with his adventures in bureaucracy, trying to borrow the brains and figure out how they worked. Far more than dogs, that is what the book is about.He does keep coming back to dogs, though. Berns and company devised numerous experiments to see if dogs could pass tests that two year old humans ace. Importantly, this is not to prove humans are smarter, but to see how much dogs process their own observations. He patiently trains the dogs to enter and stay in MRI machines, despite the enclosure and the racket, and to follow directions. It means endless repetitions in dry runs. The idea is to find out if dogs can transfer their attention as directed. Or what has priority: praise or food? In that way, we might understand how dogs think.Dogs don’t think in labels like humans do. Humans have a name for every little thing. Dogs don’t care. For example, given a choice to pick out a close substitute for a specifically named toy, a dog will look at shape last. It will first look for substitutes of the same general size, and then of the same texture, the very opposite of what humans would do. That should color how we think about communicating with dogs.Dogs are not about things; they are about actions. They will follow instructions to do things all day long. But telling them to select an object by name shows most unsatisfactory results. Dogs expect/hope that commands are for actions. If we can change our approach to recognize that bias, perhaps we can communicate better with them, Berns says.There are a bunch of fascinating sidelights, too. Dolphins, another subject of brains scans, process sound over 100 times faster than humans. Sound travels at 3355 mph under water (Sound travels at 768 mph in the air), so fast that it is near useless to use slow, low level sounds which echo back all at the same time. Dolphins instead employ high pitched sounds in the range of 100 KHz. Meanwhile, humans can only hear up to about 20 Khz, and dogs 40 Khz. Dolphins hear through their jaws, and can distinguish objects a fraction of a millimeter that way. They are far more accurate hearing than humans are with sight.The book ends in a totally unexpected way, totally unconnected to the title. Berns is a big animal rights activist. He has the greatest respect for them, and pushes to end the suffering humans inflict on them. He goes on for pages about Dog Lab in med school and how he regrets it. He also sees the decline and fall of humans, as DNA editing will allow custom humans to be produced at will. This is a wild conclusion to a book that already has relatively little to do with the title. It shows Berns to be a multifaceted scientist with a lot of heart. But it’s not really about what it’s like to be a dog.David Wineberg
    more
  • Nathan
    January 1, 1970
    In a manner as convenient as possible to dogs with the available technologies, Berns sets out to further unravel the mysteries of the animal mind (dogs, in particular): How's their sense of self? To what degree do they make a choice out of free will? Do they really love you, or do they just associate you with food? Those kinds of things. There are other books in this same arena that I've either heard of or read sections of---ones that put (or try their best to put) you in the position of an anim In a manner as convenient as possible to dogs with the available technologies, Berns sets out to further unravel the mysteries of the animal mind (dogs, in particular): How's their sense of self? To what degree do they make a choice out of free will? Do they really love you, or do they just associate you with food? Those kinds of things. There are other books in this same arena that I've either heard of or read sections of---ones that put (or try their best to put) you in the position of an animal. If those books are the 101 course, then consider this a 201. You're a little deeper into the inner workings of the brain, what (or what we think) does what, and why that matters. When other books would say, "Yeah, that's just something they don't have," Berns explains it out a little more. Some might glaze over during the explanations; others might rejoice. You probably know which one you are before you turn over the first page. The books's biggest pro, oddly enough, might be its biggest con: The transparency of the material that Berns is presenting, and the amount thereof. As you would imagine a person trained in the scientific method would conduct himself, we're treated to the good, the bad, and the ugly in regards to his (not cruel at all) experiments on dogs and formerly-living animals. He practically flays himself open in this manner, giving you details you might consider as supremely superfluous/yawn-worthy; on the flip-side, however, the reader is given stupendous insight into the steps, the process, and the splendor that comes when usable data is obtained. For a reader desperately wanting to get to the subject matter on the book cover, frustration might set in when a few detour chapters are taken to explain moments in evolution and the brain, using two examples.In a book all-but-advertised to show what it's like to be in the head of a dog, there's really not much to glean about, well, what it's like to be in the head of a dog. Is there progress shown? You betcha. Will you learn something? I sure hope so, because the information's there. There's no mic-drop moment here, yeah, but Berns, with one hell of a last-third-of-a-book that reveals much of his reasoning for doing this research (along with a terrible memory he was kind enough to share), draws out what we know, what we think we know, and what we should one day know. Animal lovers (dogs and otherwise) can hope to gain some insight and knowledge here. Many thanks to NetGalley, Perseus Books, and Basic Books for the advance read.
    more
  • Brice Fuqua
    January 1, 1970
    Do dogs actually think? And if they do, are their thoughts like ours? These might seem impossible questions to answer, since we can't get inside a canine's mind. Or can we?In this fascinating book, Gregory Berns shares his research on the brains of dogs and other mammals and indicates the similarities and differences between humans and our pets. Berns' project began when he trained his own dog to lie still inside a MRI machine, for the first time, obtaining a brain scan of an unanesthetized dog. Do dogs actually think? And if they do, are their thoughts like ours? These might seem impossible questions to answer, since we can't get inside a canine's mind. Or can we?In this fascinating book, Gregory Berns shares his research on the brains of dogs and other mammals and indicates the similarities and differences between humans and our pets. Berns' project began when he trained his own dog to lie still inside a MRI machine, for the first time, obtaining a brain scan of an unanesthetized dog. He went on the train a number of other dogs. He then expanded the study by training the dogs to do simple tasks that required decision making. His conclusions were that dogs and other mammals do have some limited abilities to think, make decisions and even experience regret. Berns and his team went on to scan the brains of autopsied sea lions, dolphins, raccoons and even an extinct thylacine. They found substantial differences in the way these animal brains were wired, which depended greatly on the way they obtained food, how they moved and processed sound and light. The most interesting section was the team's attempts to scan the brains of two thylacines, or Tasmanian tigers, an animal that became extinct in 1936. No one had ever attempted to do an MRI scan on brains over one hundred years old. Their work was made more difficult by the fact that almost no research had been done on marsupial brains of any kind. Also, no scientists had bothered to study thylacine behavior while the animal was alive. The results showed a brain that was radically different from placental mammals. Berns shows that the oft-told story that thylacines were exterminated by ranchers because they killed sheep is probably wrong because their brains had not really evolved for that type of hunting. The book concludes with a discussion of animal rights. If dogs, apes, dolphins, cows and rats can form thoughts, then what right do we have to exploit them for scientific experiments, labor or food? Berns takes a middle-of-the-road approach on these questions. This book is written in an accessible, nontechnical style and should be of interest to general science readers and those interested in the latest brain research. If you are looking for cute stories about dogs, this is the wrong book. Despite the title, the dog studies makes up only about one-fourth of the book.
    more
  • Adrian Curtin
    January 1, 1970
    As any pet owner will tell you, their dog or cat has a distinct personality that they can describe to you more vividly than they might describe the character of their closest friends. Even though we feel that we can project our thoughts and emotions onto some of our closest companions, we really don't know what it is that is going on within their mind. The questions that come when you begin to think about what your cat/dog might be thinking are surprisingly deep. What do they know? What do they As any pet owner will tell you, their dog or cat has a distinct personality that they can describe to you more vividly than they might describe the character of their closest friends. Even though we feel that we can project our thoughts and emotions onto some of our closest companions, we really don't know what it is that is going on within their mind. The questions that come when you begin to think about what your cat/dog might be thinking are surprisingly deep. What do they know? What do they understand? What does it mean to know or understand? Dr. Berns is a researcher at Emory university who has made his work the study of animals and their psychology, who over recent years, has gained some fame for the use of fMRI to study dogs. In this work, Berns covers some of the initial steps in training and readying dogs for the daunting task of fMRI, and then talks a bit about some of the studies they have run. From their he branches out in terms of species to sea lions and the extinct tigers of tasmania (thylacines), switching not only his imaging modality (DTI) but the essence of the discussion (structural instead of functional). He ends his meandering tale with a call for more humane animal research and an understanding that intelligence and awareness belong more than just to humans alone.Although the book has its interesting points, I don't feel like the book manages to connect with either professional neurosciences or dog-lovers. On the one hand, the descriptions are very accessible to the lay-person, but may be oversimplified a lot. On the other hand, for a person who is just getting their introduction to neuroscience through this book, they probably bought it because they love dogs. It's a fair assumption given the way the title uniquely targets this demographic. Dog-lovers will unfortunately be disappointed in the way that the book so quickly deviates from canines into more generic animal science, never to return. This book is written for animal lovers, with a penchant for activism who are looking for neuroscience stories from a sympathetic narrator. It's a somewhat specific audience because I feel that other individuals do the same, but better.
    more
  • Brian's Book Blog
    January 1, 1970
    An Interesting Science-Heavy Book4.5 out of 5 starsI’ve heard bits and pieces about the work done by Berns and team on social media and news outlets in the last year or so, but it was really awesome to hear the words from the actual person performing these scans and tests.The only reason this lost a partial point was that it felt like Berns would go off on tangents about the science and history of something instead of continuing to talk about what he was originally set out to talk about. This ha An Interesting Science-Heavy Book4.5 out of 5 starsI’ve heard bits and pieces about the work done by Berns and team on social media and news outlets in the last year or so, but it was really awesome to hear the words from the actual person performing these scans and tests.The only reason this lost a partial point was that it felt like Berns would go off on tangents about the science and history of something instead of continuing to talk about what he was originally set out to talk about. This happened in about every chapter and after a while, I knew it was par for the course so I just sat back and tried to enjoy his explanation of the whys before he got back to the new science he was doing.Overall, I think that this book would be enjoyed by dog and animal lovers alike. I’m a bit of a speciesist (he does a small part on this in the book) towards dogs and I was a little sad that the entire book wasn’t just about dogs — but I understand the reason that Berns didn’t do that. The science and the studies of other animals in here were fascinating. Especially the ways that he was able to prove (or help prove) that certain animals had something that was long believed to not exist.If you are interested in the science behind what it’s like to be a dog — this book is definitely for you. If you’re looking for a light-hearted “science-light” book, this one might not be for you. Sure, Berns uses a lot of comedic relief, but I think the book is meant to be mostly scientific with an air or entertainment.Joe Hempel does a great job with this book. This is not the first (or last) science non-fiction book I’ve listened to by Hempel. He’s able to bring an air of knowledge and understanding to the words of these authors. I look forward to more non-fiction books from him in the future.
    more
  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    I was hoping for more science, but What It's Like To Be a Dog is primarily about the author's experiences studying dogs and other animals as a neuroscientist, along with a lot of his philosophizing about his work. I'm not a total neophyte to this stuff, and there were parts of his philosophy that I didn't agree with and did not really appreciate the second-to-last chapter where he laid out his philosophy as a natural extension of his scientific research. Some of his points were good, others not I was hoping for more science, but What It's Like To Be a Dog is primarily about the author's experiences studying dogs and other animals as a neuroscientist, along with a lot of his philosophizing about his work. I'm not a total neophyte to this stuff, and there were parts of his philosophy that I didn't agree with and did not really appreciate the second-to-last chapter where he laid out his philosophy as a natural extension of his scientific research. Some of his points were good, others not so much. Again, I was hoping for more science. As someone who is very interested in practical animal welfare science, I was annoyed with his off-hand comments about agriculture made with "common sense" authority--it's not his expertise, he knows nothing about it, but he knows for sure how all farmers raise their animals and how it affects those animals psychologically. In fact, there's a lot of science that goes into livestock care, housing, and general welfare. I come across off-hand comments like this in a lot of books by scientists who study animals but do not have any expertise in livestock animals (but believe that they do), and it's a big pet peeve of mine. The science behind things like different housing systems, for example, is fascinating and complex--which of course means it gets drastically over-simplified in popular media. I wish people had more of a respect for it. In all, I was very disappointed by this book as I was expecting it to be a more in-depth look at the science than it really is. It is more about the author's experiences, thoughts, and feelings about his work than it is about the work itself.
    more
  • Becky White
    January 1, 1970
    I listened to the audio book version of "What it's Like to Be a Dog"While the premise of this book was interesting, the author skips around a lot and so I got confused. He starts out reviewing his research on how dogs make decisions and respond to stimuli. He gets pretty deep into the technical weeds on this…another neuroscientist would appreciate it, but not a lay person . Then, all of a sudden, he switches to his research on dolphins and sea lions. I was not quite sure what this had to do with I listened to the audio book version of "What it's Like to Be a Dog"While the premise of this book was interesting, the author skips around a lot and so I got confused. He starts out reviewing his research on how dogs make decisions and respond to stimuli. He gets pretty deep into the technical weeds on this…another neuroscientist would appreciate it, but not a lay person . Then, all of a sudden, he switches to his research on dolphins and sea lions. I was not quite sure what this had to do with his research on dogs. Then, all of a sudden, he skips to a tear jerking story about a thylacine ( an extinct carnivorous marsupial) who dies in captivity, and another who is hunting for food in Tasmania. From this, he jumps to his study of the long-dead brains of thylacine and other critters. Very interesting, but not much relevance to either dogs or sea lions, that I could see. He ends with another tear jerking story of how he was “forced” to experiment on dogs as a medical student, how he “found the light” and became an animal rights activist whose current research neither harms, nor even forces participation, of live animals , and how he hopes to study the brains of many more species “before they all disappear”, as though that was a forgone conclusion. I did learn a few things about how animals think and why they behave as the do. And the narrator did as good job as he could in telling the story, given the way the book was written. On the whole however, I thought that the author let his emotions interfere with both his investigations and the way he told this story.
    more
  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    I expected to enjoy this book more than I did. It wasn't that it failed to be interesting, because it was. And it contained some good stories about the author's experiences, and lots of facts about brain structures. I just couldn't figure out what the book was about. It bounces back and forth between research about dogs, harbor seals and porpoises, thylacines, lab experiments, how MRI works, evolution, travels to Tasmania and Australia, and commentary on animal exploitation. But it lacks a narra I expected to enjoy this book more than I did. It wasn't that it failed to be interesting, because it was. And it contained some good stories about the author's experiences, and lots of facts about brain structures. I just couldn't figure out what the book was about. It bounces back and forth between research about dogs, harbor seals and porpoises, thylacines, lab experiments, how MRI works, evolution, travels to Tasmania and Australia, and commentary on animal exploitation. But it lacks a narrative thread or point.I think it was a mistake for the author to arrange the book in the order he experienced these subjects throughout his professional life. Perhaps the book could have been divided into sections about each research project, its goals and its findings. That would have given each section some narrative structure, and imparted some dramatic tension as we read on to find out what happened.But instead it is sometimes almost stream of consciousness, as one subject interrupts another. It's also likely this was assembled from a number of individual articles, as some material is repeated—-occasionally even more than twice.The reader is enthusiastic, but occasionally mispronounces everyday words in odd ways.Some of the content is fairly technical for a layman, but that shouldn't interfere with your ability to learn quite a lot from the book. It just wasn't the journey of discovery I was hoping for.
    more
  • Joanne
    January 1, 1970
    I bought this book in Waterstones. I had heard about Gregory Berns work with dogs in MRI scanners in the media and although I hadn't been that interested, I thought I should find out what it's all about, as it seemed pertinent to my own work. It didn't meet my expectations. Partly because, in the book, the 'And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience' is more prominent than the lettering of the front-cover would suggest...kind of like the publishers said 'say its about dogs and that will draw th I bought this book in Waterstones. I had heard about Gregory Berns work with dogs in MRI scanners in the media and although I hadn't been that interested, I thought I should find out what it's all about, as it seemed pertinent to my own work. It didn't meet my expectations. Partly because, in the book, the 'And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience' is more prominent than the lettering of the front-cover would suggest...kind of like the publishers said 'say its about dogs and that will draw the sales in'. The other adventures are interesting and food for thought, but I found myself frustrated that I didn't know enough to be able to properly draw conclusions from what I was reading. There were a lot of words on what it was like to be chasing the ideas, as a scientist, but it felt like lots of unanswered questions. I would have liked a few more conclusions...maybe that's why I'm not a scientist. It might also be that I wanted a bit more 'spirituality' in the book. Reading 'consciousness is nothing but co-ordinated electrical activity' does not fit neatly with what I am working on. I definitely like the work he's doing on raising the awareness that animals are more like us and we should take note.
    more
  • Steve Solnick
    January 1, 1970
    Very well written account of one of the frontier areas of science. Berns does an excellent job describing the relatively new field of cognitive neuroscience - especially how breakthroughs in MRI imaging have opened up entirely new avenues of research. I learned a lot about the structure of the brain, and how brains of different animals (including humans) are different. Berns also provides wonderful accounts of how science is actually done - how scientists working in related areas find each other Very well written account of one of the frontier areas of science. Berns does an excellent job describing the relatively new field of cognitive neuroscience - especially how breakthroughs in MRI imaging have opened up entirely new avenues of research. I learned a lot about the structure of the brain, and how brains of different animals (including humans) are different. Berns also provides wonderful accounts of how science is actually done - how scientists working in related areas find each other and decide to collaborate, how experimental designs evolve, sometimes by trial and error, and how even a 7th grade science fair project can spark a new line of inquiry. A great book for, say, a high school biology class to learn about both science and the doing of science.The one thing I don't think I really learned, though, was what it's like to be a dog. I learned a bit about dogs (like, they apparently don't understand language, really - or at least not in the noun-verb pidgin sense), but not ultimately what being a dog is like. Also, note the subtitle - about 60% of the book is about the dog project, but there are lengthy detours into sea lion brains and Tasmanian marsupials. Fascinating stuff, but if you're reading this to get inside Rover's head, you might be a bit disappointed.
    more
Write a review