Emory-CPT Neuroscience Project Receives Significant Grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR)

On October 1, 2012 the Emory-CPT Neuroscience Team received notification from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) that the team was awarded a 3-year $988,000 grant to use awake, non-restrained fMRI to study canine brain responses, especially those dealing with olfaction. The project team will also study canine cognition, emotions, sensory perception, and receptive communication. Ultimately, the Department of Defense will employ the research findings to improve the training, selection, and handling of military working dogs, especially those dealing with explosives detection.

The grant proposal includes objectives to create brain maps of the canine olfactory processes, study the interaction of sniffing, respiration, and cognitive olfaction, measure the motivational strength of a variety of potential stimuli and reinforcers, determine the effects of training and discrimination on olfactory behavior, learn more about the olfactory process with regard to individual and compound odors, and to develop predictive models that correlate brain activations to behavioral responses outside the scanner.

In today’s military theater, improvised explosive devices have become the enemy weaponry most lethal and injurious to US soldiers. Trained canines remain the most effective tool for detecting explosives devices. Canine noses are more accurate, portable, and cost effective than mechanical mass spectrometers when detecting explosive chemicals and compounds. Nevertheless, the Department of Defense wishes to improve the selection process of potential Improvised Explosive Detection Dogs (IEDDs), wishes to expedite and improve the training process of IEDDs, wishes to improve the handling of IEDDs, and wishes to improve the work performance, quality of life, and useful working life of IEDDs. The Emory-CPT project team remains the only research team worldwide that has published quality canine fMRI images without the use of sedation or restraints. The proprietary process employed by the team opens great avenues for obtaining greater understanding regarding how dogs think and how they perceive the environment, which in turn provides great opportunity to improve the selection, training, and handling of military working dogs, law enforcement dogs, service dogs, and pet dogs and for concomitant owners and handlers to provide a higher quality of life for their working and pet animals.

For more information about CPT or about the Emory-CPT Neuroscience Project, please contact Mark Spivak by email (MarkCPT@aol.com) or by phone (404-236-2150).

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