Cats act superior, but it's dogs that have the brains

Ebony Scott
December 1, 2017

Despite what every cat-loving friend has been telling you for years, a new study from Vanderbilt University suggests that dogs are the smarter house pet.

The study found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons, while cats have approximately 250 million.

An worldwide team of researchers took her work and ran with it to compare the brain size and number of neurons in a wide range of animals, including household favorites like cats and dogs, as well as bears, hyenas, lions and raccoons. That area of the brain is connected to "thinking planning and complex behavior".

She says the higher the number of neurons an animal has, the greater their ability to, in her words, "predict what is about to happen in their environment based on past experience".

She detailed those findings in a research paper, titled "Dogs have the most neurons, though not the largest brain: Trade-off between body mass and number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of large carnivoran species", which has been OK'd for publication in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.

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"We did not study their behavior, so we can not (and do not) make any claims about how intelligent they are", researcher Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University, told HuffPost in an email. For example, the brain of a golden retriever had more neurons than a hyena, lion or brown bear, even though the predators have brains of up to three times as large.

They also noted that the bear's brain is 10 times larger than a cat's, yet has the same amount of neurons.

The size of the animal and its brain doesn't always correlate to more neurons.

The team were working on the theory that domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild cousins, and that carnivores have bigger brains than herbivores. Since the scientists believe the number of these neurons helps to determine cognitive capabilities, that means Fido might be brighter than Fluffy.

Study leader Professor Suzana Herculano-Houzel admitted she was a "dog person" but insisted that didn't impact her findings.

Other reports by GizPress

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