New study finds dogs are more than twice as smart as cats


It's been accepted for publication in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.

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

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 almost twice the amount of neurons compared to cats, ABC News reports.

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"It is fair to say, then, that dogs have about twice as many neurons as cats in their cerebral cortex", she said. "They have a fairly small brain but they have as many neurons as you would expect to find in a primate ... and that's a lot of neurons".

"You take the brain and turn it into a soup", she said, matter-of-factly, as the first step to finding these neurons.

"I'm 100 percent a dog person", Ms. Herculano-Houzel said in the statement, "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". While different parts of the brain process outside stimuli like sight and touch, the cerebral cortex puts these stimuli together to drive decision-making and problem-solving, among other functions. Two brains were used to study dogs because the canines vary so greatly in size.

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According to a recent ABC News article, Vanderbilt University has discovered that dogs have 530 million neurons in their cerebral cortex while cats only have 250 million. "We humans have twice the cortical neurons that gorillas have; dogs, as we found out, have about twice the cortical neurons that cats have". Though Herculano-Houzel notes they also have higher-than-typical neuron counts in their cerebellums, the part of the brain that controls motor skills.

Previous and sometimes controversial work to quantify intelligence has measured brain size and structural complexity.

Until recently, scientists interested in comparing intelligence across species were limited to using brain size as an indicator.

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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. Score one for Team Cat!