A recent study suggests that dogs' sense of sight and smell are somehow connected because they have the ability to "see" using their noses. It's no secret that canines already have a great sense of smell that is often used to detect and track down certain things - from objects to people. And now, research has shown that this special talent is enhanced by specific brain structures that connect their smell to their eyes. Here's how.
“The most interesting thing about this research are the connections from the nose up to the occipital lobe, which houses the visual cortex,” explained veterinary neurologist Philippa Johnson, who also works as an associate professor at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the senior author of the interesting study. The results were found after Johnson and her colleagues studied the brain of 23 dogs using MRI scans to analyze neurological connections between the olfactory bulbs (the place where smell gets recognized) to the occipital lobe (where vision is detected).
The reason why this conclusion is very odd is that up until now, no other species has been known to have this brain connection. But while the study shows that smell and sight in intertwined for dogs, the researchers are still not sure exactly how the two experiences work together. “Scent contributes to the visual cortex in dogs, but a dog’s experience is hard for us to know,” Johnson said. “But I think they can use scent to work out where things are.”
While we humans typically rely on our eyes for the majority of our experiences, canines apparently take everything in. According to scientists, dogs integrate scent along with sight to determine what environment they're in and how they are oriented in it. They also seem to integrate scent into their interpretation of their environment and how they are orientated in it. "One of the ophthalmologists at the hospital here said he regularly has owners that bring their dogs in, and when he tests their eyesight, they are completely blind - but the owners literally won't believe him," she said. "The blind dogs act completely normally. They can play fetch. They can orientate around their environment, and they don't bump into things." To learn more, check out the publication in the Journal of Neuroscience.