Magdalena Boch

Magdalena Boch

comparative social neuroscientist and psychologist

University of Vienna

University of Oxford

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Unit at the University of Vienna in close collaboration with the Cognitive Neuroecology Lab at the University of Oxford. My research focuses on the neural bases of how dogs and humans perceive and understand each other and the evolution of the canine and primate social brain.

Download my CV.

  • comparative neuroscience
  • social cognition
  • evolution of the social brain
  • visual perception
  • non-invasive neuroimaging techniques
  • open (neuro)science
  • PhD in Psychology (graded with honors), 2022

    University of Vienna, AT

  • MSc in Psychology (graded with honors), 2017

    University of Vienna, AT

  • BSc in Psychology, 2015

    University of Vienna, AT


Dog neuroimaging - research methods
The dogs participating in my research are all fully awake and unrestrained pet dogs (see also here for more information). In order to achieve this, my colleagues and I developed a training protocol using positive reinforcement in order to habituate the dogs to the scanner environment and attend the visual stimuli presentation for data collection runs up to 8 min. I am also continously working on improving current preprocessing and analysis workflows of dog neuroimaging data since data processing and analysis standards in the emerging field of canine neuroimaging are often based on human neuroimaging standards, despite neurophysiological and anatomical differences. Together with my colleagues, I have developed a pre-processing pipeline for canine neuroimaging data and investigated the BOLD signal time course in dogs. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found that the BOLD signal in dogs peaks 2-3 s earlier as in humans. Based on this finding, we created a tailored haemodynamic response function (HRF) for dogs to accurately model the BOLD signal, and showed that this significantly increases detection power in dog fMRI studies. Stay tuned for further investigations on how we can improve canine neuroimaging methods.

Recent Publications (preprints below)


Public Outreach

Inside the Dog Brain with Guide Dogs UK.
In fall 2022, I have been invited from the Centre for the Creative Brain at the University of Oxford to talk about my research joining speakers from Guide Dogs UK at a public engagement event. I explained why pet dogs are an exciting model species for comparative social neuroscience and the research questions I am interested in my work. Followed by an introduction of the dog brain and how we collect the dogs neuroimaging data. Finally I discussed some highlights from awake dog fMRI research so far covering insights into dog and human brain evolution as well as the dog-human relationship.
Kinderuni / Vienna Children's University
Over the last years, colleagues from the SCAN Unit and I organized and hosted an interactive workshop at the annual Vienna Children’s University. Under the title “What does our brain do? - Everything about the brain and the abilities it enables us to have” we teach pre-school and elementary school children about brain structure and function focusing on empathy, perspective taking and memory. We explore for example how the human brain looks like by making brain hats together and compare it to the brains of other animals in a match the animal and brain quiz. We also put our brains to the test with memory tasks and try to imagine what it actually feels like to be old in a role-playing game.
Pint of Science Austria
In 2022, I have been invited to talk about my research in a live online event organized by Pint of Science Austria. I explained why we do comparative imaging (i.e., what we learn about brain evolution by comparative neuroimaging), how we collect neuroimaging data from our dogs and recent research findings. The event was free and everyone could answer questions in the chat creating a great conversation.
Lange Nacht der Forschung / Long Night of Research
Together with my PhD buddies, I organized a booth on psychological research and social neuroscience at the “Lange Nacht der Forschung“ (engl. Long night of research) We provied posters and infosheets on questions like “How do we measure affective touch? How do dogs stay motionless during MRI data acquisition and why do we study dogs?, paired with quizzes (e.g. facts about the brain or match the brain and animal) and performed an actual data collection (emotion discrimination task).