The results suggest that these brain networks may be important in forming and maintaining strong emotional bonds, the researchers said in a statement.
But brain response to children and dogs wasn't entirely the same: An area of the brain vital to processing faces was activated more by a dog picture than a child's face, while parts of the midbrain were more active in response to children. It may be that facial cues are more important in human-to-dog communication, given our lack of common language. And the midbrain areas could be vital in forming human-to-human pair b0nds, National Geographic reports.
These results aren't exactly surprising. For many young Americans, dogs seem to be replacing children as a late-20's family addition. And since previous studies have indicated that dogs form bonds with their "parents" in much the same way that human babies do, it's only fair that we love them back in the same way.