Dogs Have More Neurons Associated to Thinking Than Cats
Who’s smarter, cats or dogs? Obviously for dog lovers, the answer is always their dogs. But for cat lovers, surely they won’t accept defeat. However, this perennial argument will come to a halt later on as new research showed that dogs are brainier than cats in terms of number of neurons associated with thinking and complex behavior.
According to a study headed by Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences Suzana Herculano-Houzel, as far as dogs and cats go, the study found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million. (That compares to 16 billion in the human brain.
Given the fact that dogs have more cortical neurons in the cerebral cortex, Herculano-Houzel asserted that dogs are smarter than cats who have greater hallmarks of intelligence.
Herculano-Houzel said, “I believe the absolute number of neurons an animal has, especially in the cerebral cortex, determines the richness of their internal mental state and their ability to predict what is about to happen in their environment based on past experience.”
“I’m 100 percent a dog person,” she added, “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. At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who’s smarter, cats or dogs.”
Herculano-Houzel’s study is considered the first study that actually count the number of cortical neurons in the brains of a number of carnivores, including cats and dogs.
The Study and Other Relevant Findings
Through Herculano-Hozel’s method, the researchers were able to measure accurately the number of neurons in brains for carnivoran species which are mammals that have teeth and claws. One key finding was that dogs possess significantly more neuron than cats.
Aside from measuring the number of neurons, the researchers also compared different species of carnivores 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, and wild species such as lions and brown bears.
The researchers analyzed the brains of one or two specimens from each of eight carnivoran species: ferret, mongoose, raccoon, cat, dog, hyena, lion and brown bear.
Here are the interesting results!
The researchers determined that the ratio of neurons to brain size in small- and medium-sized carnivores was about the same as that of herbivores. This suggests that there is just as much evolutionary pressure on the herbivores to develop the brain power to escape from predators as there is on carnivores to catch them.
The study’s findings also challenge the prevailing view that domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild cousins. The ratios of brain size to body weight of the domestic species they analyzed – ferret, cat and dog – did not scale in a significantly different way from those of their wild relatives – mongoose, raccoon, hyena, lion and brown bear.
The analysis also discovered that the raccoon was an outlier – on the brainy side: It packs the same number of cortical neurons as a dog into a brain the size of a cat’s.