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New Study Suggests Dogs May Be Smarter than Cats

2017-11-30

This is What’s Trending Today.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

People around the world are bitterly divided about which animal is the better pet. But a new study may have found a clear winner when it comes to which animal is more intelligent: dogs.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in the U.S. state of Tennessee recently studied the brains of several meat-eating mammals, including dogs, cats, lions, raccoons and bears. They found that dogs have many more neurons in the cerebral cortex than cats do. That area of the brain is connected to “thinking planning and complex behavior.” These are considered key to understanding an animal’s intelligence.

Dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons; cats have about 250 million, the researchers found.

A young visitor greets a dalmatian during the
A young visitor greets a dalmatian during the "World Dog Show" dog fair in Leipzig, eastern Germany, on November 8, 2017.

Humans, for comparison, have 16 billion.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel is a neuroscientist and a professor at Vanderbilt. She developed a way to measure the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex. She says the higher the number of neurons an animal has, the greater their ability to, in her words, “predict what is about to happen in their environment based on past experience.”

The study’s findings mean that dogs may be able to do more complex things in their lives than cats can.

Herculano-Houzel worked with graduate students and professors from across the United States as well as Brazil, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Their research is to appear in the journal “Frontiers of Neuroanatomy.”

The results of the study became a trending topic on social media Thursday.

The researchers studied the brains of other animals, too. They found that bears had about as many neurons as cats -- despite having much bigger brains. And raccoons, despite their smaller brain size, had almost as many neurons in their cerebral cortex as dogs.

And as for Herculano-Houzel herself, she is “100 percent” a dog

person.

And that’s what’s trending today.

I'm Alice Bryant.

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Words in This Story

bitterly - adv. to an extreme or forceful degree.

pet - n. an animal (such as a dog, cat, bird, or fish) that people keep mainly for pleasure

mammal - n. a type of animal that feeds milk to its young and that usually has hair or fur covering most of its skin

behavior - n. the way a person or animal acts or behaves

neuroscientist - n. a person who studies the functions of the nervous system and brain