Furred or feathered, slimed or scaled: our brains know when we see an animal
What’s more, the international team report that neurons throughout the amygdala—a centre in the brain known for processing emotional reactions—respond more to images of animals than human faces, whether we see them as dangerous or not.
Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga of our Department of Engineering has previously shown that neurons react to the sight of popular celebrities, and that different neurons will also react to the same celebrity in different contexts.
But this latest study, which he conducted with California Institute of Technology and UCLA, has shown that animals in particular are a highly relevant class of stimuli for the brain, whether we find them cute or creepy. The source of this could be our biological relationship with animals — as both predators and prey – throughout history.