- Feb 24, 2016
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-01-bigger-brains-equal-smarter-dogs.html#jCpBigger dogs, with larger brains, perform better on certain measures of intelligence than their smaller canine counterparts, according to a new study led by the University of Arizona.
Larger-brained dogs outperform smaller dogs on measures of executive functions—a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for controlling and coordinating other cognitive abilities and behaviors. In particular, bigger dogs have better short-term memory and self-control than more petite pups, according to the study published in the journal Animal Cognition.
"The jury is out on why, necessarily, brain size might relate to cognition," said lead study author Daniel Horschler, a UA anthropology doctoral student and member of the UA's Arizona Canine Cognition Center. "We think of it as probably a proxy for something else going on, whether it's the number of neurons that matters or differences in connectivity between neurons. Nobody's really sure yet, but we're interested in figuring out what those deeper things are."
Canine brain size does not seem to be associated with all types of intelligence, however. Horschler found that brain size didn't predict a dog's performance on tests of social intelligence, which was measured by testing each dog's ability to follow human pointing gestures. It also wasn't associated with a dog's inferential and physical reasoning ability.
The study's findings mirror what scientists have previously found to be true in primates—that brain size is associated with executive functioning, but not other types of intelligence.