Let the cat vs dog battle rage on.
A new study from Vanderbilt University says that dogs have more cortical neurons, aka little gray cells, than cats.
That makes dogs, dare we say, smarter than cats. Those little gray cells are in charge of thinking, planning and complex behavior and are considered a marker of intelligence in animals.
The study, published in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, analyzed the neurons of eight carnivorous animals — cats, dogs, brown bears, lions, raccoons, ferrets, mongoose and hyenas. The research team not only counted the neurons of these animals but their brain size and body-to-brain size ratios.
“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,” Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences Suzana Herculano-Houzel said in a statement.
Just because an animal is bigger and has a bigger brain size, that doesn’t mean it has more neurons. Dogs, for instance, have more cortical neurons (530 million) than cats (250 million), but also have more neurons than bears, who have larger sized brains. And bears, despite their big brains, have about the same number of neurons as cats do.
The study found that these carnivores don’t necessarily have more neurons per brain size than herbivores, so prey need just as many brain cells to escape capture as predators do.
The researchers also learned that the domesticated animals in the test group (dogs, cats, ferrets) have similar brain to body weight ratios as the wild animals in the group. And raccoons? They’re scary smart — despite having a brain the size of a cat, they have the same cortical neurons as a dog or a primate.
Previous studies have also sided with dog owners in the intelligence debate, saying that dogs have larger brains and their brains have grown more over time while cats brains have been relatively unchanged in size since they were first domesticated millennia ago. This, according to a 2012 study, has to do with dogs’ increased social nature.
- featured lifestyle
Send a Letter to the Editor