Are you a dog person or a cat person? There seems to be very little middle ground between the two groups, and with that fierce loyalty often comes the firm belief that one species is smarter than the other. It's always been more or less a moot point, as there was no real way to prove it — until now.
According to a recent study conducted at Vanderbilt University, dogs have 530 million neurons in their cerebral cortex as compared to cats, which only have around 250 million. This is nearly double or half, depending on which way you want to look at it. Either way, dog owners now have bragging rights with the data to back it up.
"Neurons are the information-processing units in the brain, and the cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that can combine information from different sources and create new associations, recognize patterns, make decisions to act differently based on past experience and start making predictions for the future," said Suzana Herculano-Houzel, the Vanderbilt University professor who developed the method for measuring neurons.
"Whatever species has the most neurons in the cerebral cortex is therefore expected to be capable of more complex and flexible behavior," Herculano-Houzel continued. "We humans have twice the cortical neurons that gorillas have; dogs, as we found out, have about twice the cortical neurons that cats have." She also revealed she is "100 percent a dog person."
As it turns out, the number of neurons in an animal also influences the “richness of their internal mental state and their ability to predict what is about to happen … based on past experience.” Other animals besides domestic pets were included in the research as well.
Through this study it was discovered that the brain of a golden retriever has more neurons than an African lion, the striped hyena and a brown bear, which is interesting considering the brown bear has a cortex of up to three times larger than that of a dog.
The study will be published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, if you need more proof. Regardless, dog owners should be thrilled to hear the news that backs up their long-held belief. Just try not to be too smug about it.
Source: ABC News