There is a region in the brain, known as Amygdala. It controls emotions of the people. According to a recent research, published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience, it has been found that Amygdala is the region related to “recognizing animals”.
In this study, 41 epilepsy patients were shown 100 pictures of people, landmarks, animals and certain other objects. During the photo showing session researchers analyze the responses of 1445 neurons in the amygdala and other regions of the brain and found that right amygdala contains neurons responding particularly to photos of animals. They found the firing of neurons of right amygdala took place in response to animals.
Neurons of amygdala start responding regardless of distance or degree of looking the animal, which can be of any category like dangerous or eatable or mammal or bird.
Researchers found that this stimulus of right amygdala is independent of emotions. Moreover, they are also hypothesizing that this response shows that animals were present from the very beginning of humanity, so that human brain started differentiating between animal and other things.
References and Further Reading:
Mormann, F. et. al. (2011). A category-specific response to animals in the right human amygdala. Nature Neuroscience.
Yang J, Bellgowan PS, Martin A., (2012). Threat, domain-specificity and the human amygdala. Neuropsychologia, 50(11), 2566–2572, doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.07.001