"At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who's smarter, cats or dogs".
"In 2005, my lab developed a very simple, fast and affordable method to count cells in brains and brain parts", Herculano-Houzel said. From there, she said, you end up with a number of suspended nuclei from neuron cells that allow the researchers to estimate the number of neurons present.
If an animal has more of these neurons, it would follow that they would be able to engage in more of these activities, so the study-for the first time ever-counted the number of these neurons in the brains of several animals. After all, what good is all that brain power if dogs still drink out of the toilet? "We humans have twice the cortical neurons that gorillas have; dogs, as we found out, have about twice the cortical neurons that cats have", said Herculano-Houzel. And so, the more neurons an animal has, the better its information processing capability, these scientists say. That may help them wield their hefty trunks.
A new study gives dog owners solid scientific evidence that dogs really are smarter than cats.
Of course, such an arbitrary measurement of the brain is not an objective metric of such a complex trait as intelligence.
The research was done in the lab of Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an associate professor of psychology and biological sciences at Vanderbilt University.
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.
"It's not a larger body that explains the number of neurons you have", she said.
The research team has so far focused on studying carnivorous land animals, but they hope to one day study marine mammals.