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01 December 2017, 05:42 | Louis Holland
Which is smarter: a cat or a dog? New study has the answer to that long-standing question
The study, from Vanderbilt University, USA, is the first to actually painstakingly count the number of cortical neurons in the brain - the components associated with thinking, planning and complex behaviour.
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The study found cats have around 250 million cortical neurons, while dogs have about 530 million.
"At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who is smarter - cats or dogs".
"Dogs have the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can", one of the authors of the study, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, said in a statement. We also find that raccoons have dog-like numbers of neurons in their cat-sized brain, which makes them comparable to primates in neuronal density.
She detailed those findings in a research paper, titled "Dogs have the most neurons, though not the largest brain: Trade-off between body mass and number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of large carnivoran species", which has been OK'd for publication in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.
Prof Herculano-Houzel of Vanderbilt University in the United States, added: "I would bet money on a large dog over a cat any time".
Just because an animal is bigger and has a bigger brain size, that doesn't mean it has more neurons. For example, the brain of a golden retriever had more neurons than a hyena, lion or brown bear, even though the predators have brains of up to three times as large. Another oddity is the bear - its brain is about 10 times larger than a cats, but has a similar amount of neurons.
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Carnivorans are a diverse group of mammals that includes carnivorous, omnivorous and herbivorous, domesticated and wild species, with a large range of brain sizes.
They also noted that racoons had far more number of neurons than their small size brain indicated.
Herculano-Houzel herself admits that, while the study was objective, she herself does have a bit of a bias.
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