"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 Herculano-Houzel.
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.
The study was conducted by researchers from six universities in the US, Brazil, Denmark and South Africa.
In each of the dogs' brains, despite varying in size, researchers found about 500 million neurons, more than double the 250 million found in the cat's brain.
But large carnivores were actually found to have a lower neuron to brain size ratio, with golden retrievers having more neurons than hyenas, lions or brown bears, which can have cortices up to three times the size of dogs. It's been accepted for publication in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.
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Dogs just may be smarter than cats, and dog owners really might have bragging rights on that particular debate, if this research is anything to go by. Yes, there are recognizable patterns, but there are multiple ways that nature has found of putting brains together.
Your canine friend may be more smarter than felines as their brain possesses significantly more number of neurons linked to thinking, planning and complex behaviour, a study has found. Herculano-Houzel herself admits that, while the study was objective, she herself does have a bit of a bias.
Of course, such an arbitrary measurement of the brain is not an objective metric of such a complex trait as intelligence.
"Raccoons are not your typical carnivoran", said Ms. Herculano-Houzel.
The research team has so far focused on studying carnivorous land animals, but they hope to one day study marine mammals.