The paper, which will be published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy (and nearly certainly maligned on Reddit, the Internet's haven for cat lovers), notes that the physical size of the brain doesn't necessarily relate to overall intelligence.
The cells are associated with thinking, planning and behaviour, and Herculano-Houzel developed the method for accurately measuring their numbers.
One of the key questions the study hoped to answer was whether carnivores have more brain neurons than the herbivorous species they prey upon, with the researchers hypothesising that they should because hunting is cognitively more demanding.
The researchers discovered that dogs have 530 million neurons in their cerebral cortex, while cats have only around 250 million. Herculano-Houzel did clarify that she is "100% a dog person".
"Neurons are the basic information processing units", said Herculano-Houzel.
A study led by a Vanderbilt University professor counted for the first time the number of cortical neurons in the brains of cats and dogs and found that dogs possess almost double the amount of neurons compared to cats.
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The study also found that brain size has little relationship to intelligence. The more neurons the brain contains, the faster that processor is and the brain has the capacity for more complex behaviors, pattern recognition and the ability to make decisions based on past experiences or future perceptions. After all, what good is all that brain power if dogs still drink out of the toilet?
"We definitely need more research on this topic before we can definitively state how meaningful brain size is as a measure of intelligence across different animal groups", she said. For example, raccoons, despite having smaller brains than cats, have about the same number of cortical neurons as dogs.
Human brains, by the way, have about 16 billion cortical neurons.
When they looked at a 64-pound golden retriever, the count was even higher: 627 million neurons.
The study wasn't meant to just touch off another dogs vs. cats cage match. Score one for Team Cat!