Dogs just may be smarter than cats, and dog owners really might have bragging rights on that particular debate, if this research is anything to go by.
For the first time, scientists at Vanderbilt University counted the number of cortical neurons in the brains of both cats and dogs, and found that dogs have nearly twice the amount of neurons compared to cats, ABC News reports.
The researchers discovered that dogs have 530 million neurons in their cerebral cortex, while cats have only around 250 million.
Suzana Herculano-Houzel, the Vanderbilt professor who developed the method for measuring neurons, said, “Neurons are the information-processing units in the brain, and the cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that can combine information from different sources and create new associations, recognize patterns, make decisions to act differently based on past experience and start making predictions for the future.”
Whatever species has the most neurons in the cerebral cortex is therefore expected to be capable of more complex and flexible behavior,
she further explained. “We humans have twice the cortical neurons that gorillas have; dogs, as we found out, have about twice the cortical neurons that cats have.” Herculano-Houzel did clarify that she is “100% a dog person.”
The number of neurons present in an animal also regulates “richness of their internal mental state and their ability to predict what is about to happen…based on past experience,” the researchers added.
Herculano-Houze examined the neurons in the brains of other animals, including a ferret, a raccoon, a mongoose, a lion and more. There appeared to be discrepancies when it came to neurons and cortex size, the study also found. For example, the brain of a golden retriever has more neurons compared to the striped hyena, brown bear and African lion, even if the bear’s cortex is three times bigger than the retriever’s.
The research is due for publication in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.