The researches believe the number of cortical neurons signifies the richness of an animal's mental state.
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. She created the method of accurately measuring the amount of neurons in the brain, the university said in a statement announcing the findings. 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.
A newly released study may have put an age-old debate to rest: dogs are smarter than cats.
It's a pretty significant difference, this study did not prove the fact that the more neurons, more brain. The analysis also discovered that raccoons pack the same number of cortical neurons as a dog into a brain the size of a cat's.
Raccoons have a brain the size of a cat, but have a cortical neuron density similar to that of a dog.
Now, after counting the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of a range of carnivores, there's finally something in the way of conclusive evidence about which animal has more capacity for intelligence, and it's dogs.
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"Raccoons are not your typical carnivoran", said Ms. Herculano-Houzel.
By comparison, a human brain houses around 16 billion cortical neurons.
"As far as dogs and cats go, the study found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million".
"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", said Suzana Herculano-Houzel, associate professor of psychology and biological sciences at Vanderbilt, who oversaw the study with a collection of global researchers.
A new study, published recently out of Vanderbilt University, is throwing a bone to those who think our best friend might also be best in class.
Dr Herculano-Houzel added: 'At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who's smarter, cats or dogs'.