Dog owners now have scientific data to back them in the eternal debate over whether dogs really are smarter than cats.
A study led by a Vanderbilt University professor counted for the first time the number of cortical neurons in the brains of cats and dogs and found that dogs possess nearly double the amount of neurons compared to cats.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University found that dogs have 530 million neurons in their cerebral cortex, while cats have only half that amount, or around 250 million.
The number of neurons in an animal determines the “richness of their internal mental state and their ability to predict what is about to happen … based on past experience,” researchers said.
“I’m 100 percent a dog person,” Suzana Herculano-Houzel, the Vanderbilt professor who developed the method for measuring the neurons, said in an article published by the university. “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.”
Herculano-Houzel studied the number of neurons in the brains of animals including a ferret, mongoose, raccoon, lion and more. The research was accepted this week for publication in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.
Researchers also found that the brain of a golden retriever has more neurons than the striped hyena, African lion and brown bear, even though a brown bear has a cortex up to three times larger than a dog.