I'm not sure I needed a scientific study to tell me this, but according to a new study people can and do love their dogs as much as the love their own babies.

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The study by Massachusetts General Hospital used brain scans to study people's reactions to photos of their babies and photos of their dogs. It turns out that the areas of the brain associated with emotion and rewards lit up almost the same when people were showed photos of their babies and their dogs. These areas did not light up the same when people were shown pictures of other people's babies or dogs.

So, really? We love our dogs as MUCH as our own children? Well, not exactly.

There was at least some difference. When shown pictures of their babies, the section of the brain associated with the "reward and affiliation" aspect of bonding lit up, and did not light up the same for the pets. This is associated with "a high density of dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin receptors (the really really feel good stuff) that plays a critical role in reward-mediated attachment and affiliation." So, we are definitely more bonded to out babies, but the overall reaction and "love" for both our kids and our dogs can be very very similar.

So I guess now you don't have to feel as weird about calling your dog your baby, or referring to the dog as the "grandchild" when you talk to your parents, as it turns out you just may love that dog as if they were.