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New Dog IQ Test Could Provide Clues To Dementia

Who's a smart boy?

Man's best friend could help unlock clues when it comes to human intelligence and even give us a better understanding of dementia, researchers believe. A new study says that we might be able to measure canine intelligence with an IQ test similar to the ones for humans.

Researchers at the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh say they've developed a doggy IQ test that can help measure a dog's ability to problem solve and complete certain tasks. The study included 68 working border collies who -- unlike household pets -- work on farms and aren't used to things like tricks and treats.

"Just as people vary in their problem-solving abilities, so do dogs, even within one breed," lead researcher Rosalind Arden, of the London School of Economics, said in a release.

Similar to many human intelligence tests, the dogs were given a handful of tests, administered in just around an hour, to measure things like navigation and decision-making. For example, they were timed on how fast it took them to get food that was behind a barrier and also on their ability to pick the larger quantity out of two plates of food. 

What they found was that dogs who completed the tests faster were usually more accurate. And those who performed well on the food barrier test also scored higher when it came to the next food choice test.

Researchers say the test could provide helpful clues on human intelligence. 

"This is significant because in humans there is a small but measurable tendency for people who are brighter to be healthier and live longer," Arden said. "So if, as our research suggests, dog intelligence is structured similarly to ours, studying a species that doesn’t smoke, drink, use recreational drugs and does not have large differences in education and income, may help us understand this link between intelligence and health better."

Dogs could even help researchers understand age-related diseases like dementia better, since their performance on intelligence tests appears to have patterns similar to humans. 

"Dogs are one of the few animals that reproduce many of the key features of dementia, so understanding their cognitive abilities could be valuable in helping us to understand what causes this disorder in humans and possibly test treatments for it," Arden said.

Veterinarians say dog dementia is fairly common and that they, too, like humans, can develop the same brain plaques and tangles associated with dementia. Some estimates suggest that as many as one in two dogs over age 10 will show symptoms of age-related cognitive decline. They even exhibit similar behavioral changes to humans with dementia -- like forgetting parts of their routine, such as entering the home through a certain door, or becoming agitated or less social. 

Researchers say that dogs are the perfect animals for this sort of research as they are easily willing to participate and seem to "enjoy" taking part. 

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