The big difference between your dog and a wild animal is the relationship that it has with humans. For example, both dogs and foxes come from the canidae family, however foxes are generally scared of humans while dogs are “ a man’s best friend”. So why is the fox’s response drastically different than a dogs?
Scientists may have figured it out. The study was originally started in Russia where a scientist wanted to see if he could domesticate foxes like people had domesticated dogs. He started to breed silver foxes with domestic traits: ones that were more tamed and friendlier towards humans. But at the same time he also bred foxes that were aggressive to humans in order to make an aggressive breed of foxes. He then started to compare the two breeds as the generations went on. He studied only 10 generations but 50 generations of silver foxes later Cornell did a study on the same foxes.
Cornell studied the tamed foxes’ brains in comparison to the fox’s brain that were aggressive towards humans. The scientist obtained brain tissue samples from 12 tamed foxes and 12 aggressive foxes looking for differences between the two brains. The particular part of the brain they studied was the prefrontal cortex and basal forebrain which are known for processing more complex information. The prefrontal cortex processes social behavior and personality expression, while the basal forebrain is a critical component to processing memories. The neurotransmitters from those regions were what the researchers mostly focused on. In particular, they focused specifically on the neurotransmitters that release dopamine and serotonin in the foxes brains which are responsible for feelings of happiness because they trigger the pleasure center of the brain.
Through the study of the neurotransmitters, the researchers found that genes from these sections of the brain from the tamed foxes were altered through the breeding of the foxes but not the ones that they expected. The variant genes in fact coded for alterations in the function of the serotonergic neurons and the glutaminergic neurons. Those neurons coincide with learning and memory. This shows that tamed animals learn and memorize differently than their aggressive equals. Now that we know this do you scientists through genetic modifications will be able to tame or domesticate any animal by simply changing a gene in their brain?