It seems dog lovers can now officially boast that dogs are brainier than cats.
A new scientific study has determined that dogs are smarter than cats when it comes to the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of their brains.
It’s commonly understood that higher neuron count translates to higher levels of intelligence and it seems dogs have been found to possess significantly more cortical neurons when compared to cats.
Cortical neurons are the “little grey cells” associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior – all considered hallmarks of intelligence.
Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, developed a method for accurately measuring the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain.
The first study of its kind counted the number of cortical neurons in the brains of a number of carnivores, including cats and dogs.
What they found is that dogs have around 530 million cortical neurons in their brains versus just 250 million for cats (for comparison, humans have around 16 billion).
“In this study, we were interested in comparing different species of carnivorans to see how the numbers of neurons in their brains relate to the size of their brains, including a few favorite species including cats and dogs, lions and brown bears,” said Herculano-Houzel.
The research, published in the journal Frontiers of Neuroanatomy, revealed some surprising results. They discovered that brown bears had only as many neurons as cats, despite the obvious size difference. Raccoons, on the other hand, had far more neurons than their small brain size would suggest.
A Golden Retriever who was studied had the most cortical neurons of all, with 627 million.
“I believe the absolute number of neurons an animal has, especially in the cerebral cortex, determines the richness of their internal mental state and their ability to predict what is about to happen in their environment based on past experience,” Herculano-Houzel explained.
“I’m 100 percent a dog person,” she added, “but, with that disclaimer, our findings mean to me that dogs have the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can. At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who’s smarter, cats or dogs.”
But Herculano-Houzel hasn’t drawn any definitive conclusions and discounted cats completely. She said, “Any argument about their cognitive capabilities at this point will be largely a matter of opinion until direct, systematic comparisons of cognitive capacity are performed across these and other species.”
Watch more about the study and its findings in the video below.