If you’re looking for an illustration of the internet’s tendency to wind itself around a whipping pole of pointless debate, consider the high-pitched rivalry between cat and dog people.
Whose gifs are cuter? Whose anecdotes are more precious? In the case of some ridiculous costume, whose unwilling pet wore it better? And, in which owners most likely are projecting their own insecurities, which is smarter?
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.
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 Nov. 29 blog post.
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.
Dogs, the study found, have about 530 million of these cortical neurons, while cats have around 250 million. Humans, by comparison, have around 16 billion.
The scientist who devised the method of counting these neurons is open about having a dog in the hunt.
“I’m 100 percent a dog person,” said Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences Suzana Herculano-Houzel in that same blog post, “but, with that disclaimer, our findings mean to me that dogs have the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can. At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who’s smarter, cats or dogs.”
The study wasn’t meant to just touch off another dogs vs. cats cage match. The study looked at relative brain sizes in different types of carnivores to determine the tradeoffs between body mass and brain power. You can read more about that here.