Medicine

Who is smarter - dogs or cats? Study may have answer

Who is smarter - dogs or cats? Study may have answer

There's a new twist in the age-old argument over whether cats are smarter than dogs, or vice versa.

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 almost double the amount of neurons compared to cats.

The debate over whether dogs or cats are the smartest pet has raged for decades, if not centuries.

The number of neurons in an animal also determines the "richness of their internal mental state and their ability to predict what is about to happen ... based on past experience", researchers said.

Of course, such an arbitrary measurement of the brain is not an objective metric of such a complex trait as intelligence.

If an animal has more of these neurons, it would follow that they would be able to engage in more of these activities, so the study-for the first time ever-counted the number of these neurons in the brains of several animals. The analysis also discovered that raccoons pack the same number of cortical neurons as a dog into a brain the size of a cat's.

The cortex is the largest layer of the brain and is associated with a range of complex behavioural characteristics.

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The research found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million.

'Raccoons are not your typical carnivoran, ' Dr Herculano-Houzel said.

Researchers studied the cortical neurons in the brains of cats, dogs, and other animals to determine intelligence.

However, a new study shows that it is possible to find the answers.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, associate professor of psychology and biological sciences, developed the method of accurately measuring the number of neurons in the brains.

Dr Herculano-Houzel added: 'At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who's smarter, cats or dogs'.

Small and medium-sized carnivores were found to have a roughly similar brain size-to-neuron ratio as the animals they preyed upon, suggesting that to escape predators herbivores had to develop just as much brain power as the animals trying to catch them.


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