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Dog IQ test could provide link between intelligence and dementia

08-Feb-16
Article By: Melissa McAlees, News Editor

Scientists have developed an IQ test for dogs which could help understand the link between intelligence and human health, according to new research published in the journal, Intelligence.

Recent studies have suggested that brighter people tend to live longer and scientists believe if they can prove the same is true in dogs they can use the tests to study long-term health problems such as dementia.

Dr Mark Adams, research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is only a first step, but we are aiming to create a dog IQ test that is reliable, valid and can be administered quickly.

“Such a test could rapidly improve our understanding of the connection between dog intelligence, health, lifespan, and be the foundation of 'cognitive epidemiology'.”

Previous research has revealed that dog intelligence works in the same way as human intelligence. Clever canines who perform well in one task tend to do well in others, similar to humans.

Like humans, dogs also naturally acquire dementia. This causes their behaviour and brain structure to change.

Explaining the similarities of dementia in both humans and dogs, Dr Rosalind Arden, a research associate at the London School of Economics, said: “You'll find a dog that changes its social habits, it doesn't want to be petted any more, it becomes introverted and alone. They reproduce lots of the disturbances found in human dementia.”

Scientists studied the intelligence of 68 working border collies by devising a series of cognitive tasks for them to carry out. One task involved the dogs finding their way to a food reward they could see which was behind a barrier. This meant they dogs had to work out to go around the barrier rather than try to dig under it.

Another task involved offering two plates of food and assessing if the dogs learnt to go to the bigger portion, while a third task examined how many times a dog followed a human pointing gesture.

Researchers found that those dogs which performed well in one of these tasks tended to perform above average in the others too.

Dr Arden believes the discovery could have ‘far reaching implications for understanding human health and disease’.

Although scientists have known for some time that more intelligent people tend to live longer, this can be notoriously difficult to investigate due to people’s lifestyle choices - whether they smoke and how much they eat, drink and exercise; all of which have a major impact on an individual’s health.

At present, researchers have only revealed that dog intelligence is measurable, as it is in humans, but have yet to establish if this is linked to health.

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