This finding was provisionally accepted for publication and will soon publish in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.
The research was done in the lab of Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an associate professor of psychology and biological sciences at Vanderbilt University.
Dogs, it turns out, have about twice the number of neurons in their cerebral cortexes than what cats have, which suggests they could be about twice as intelligent.
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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. Herculano-Houzel herself admits that, while the study was objective, she herself does have a bit of a bias. For comparison, in humans, cortical neurons, about 16 billion. "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". The more neurons the brain contains, the faster that processor is and the brain has the capacity for more complex behaviors, pattern recognition and the ability to make decisions based on past experiences or future perceptions.
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 good news for cat lovers is that cats have about the same number of those neurons as bears even though a bear's brain is about ten times larger. Though Herculano-Houzel notes they also have higher-than-typical neuron counts in their cerebellums, the part of the brain that controls motor skills.
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While the researchers may have added scientific clout to a household debate about cats and dogs, their work is part of a larger effort to use neurons as one quantifiable measure of intelligence.
The study looks at cortical neurons, the cells associated with thinking, planning and complex behaviors that act as a measurement of intelligence, Vanderbilt's research arm wrote in a November 29 blog post.
The research team has so far focused on studying carnivorous land animals, but they hope to one day study marine mammals.
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