Published: Thu, November 30, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Dogs are 'significantly more' intelligent than cats, finds first time study

Dogs are 'significantly more' intelligent than cats, finds first time study

Researchers at Vanderbilt made a decision to put the age old debate to the test objectively, studying the number of cortical neurons in the brains of a number of animals.

Dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million.

The study, conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University, says these neurons are associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior. A 2010 study from Oxford University claimed that dogs' brains are continually evolving while cats' brains haven't changed since they were domesticated about 8,000 years ago.

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"Meat eating is largely considered a problem-solver in terms of energy, but, in retrospect, it is clear that carnivory must impose a delicate balance between how much brain and body a species can afford", said Herculano-Houzel.

"Our findings showed that dogs have the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can", Herculano-Houzel added. The answer is, no, dogs are smarter than cats, at least as far as brain function goes. For example, researchers found that the brain of a brown bear, while 10 times as large as a cat's, has roughly the same number of neurons.

Past studies have concentrated on brain size and neural packing capacity to determine brain power and intelligence, but it has never truly provided an accurate picture, which is why counting cortical neurons is more definitive.

They also found that the brain of a golden retriever has more neurons than a hyena, lion or brown bear, even though the bigger predators have brains up to three times as large. We also watched a group of CT prison inmates train dogs to open refrigerator doors, turn on light switches and pick items off the ground so that they could help wounded military veterans.

"Diversity is enormous", said Houzel. "Yes, there are recognisable patterns, but there are multiple ways that nature has found of putting brains together, and we are trying to figure out what difference that makes", she said.

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