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Bigger Brains Not That Much Smarter

Update Date: Oct 08, 2014 03:43 PM EDT

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to brains.

While intelligent creatures generally have bigger brains, new research reveals that this assumption isn't always true.

Rats are generally believed to be significantly smarter than mice because of their bigger brains. However, new research suggests both rodents are actually very similar in levels of intelligence.

Researchers said the latest findings are significant as they can change the way learning and complex behaviors are studied. Scientists have always preferred rats to mice when studying how the brain makes complex decisions. However, in light of the recent findings and boom in the number of genetic tools available modeled after mice, these smaller rodents might be better than rats in terms of cognitive research.

While many scientists have acted on the assumption that rats are smarter and avoided using these new tools for brain research, researchers Prof. Anthony Zador and Santiago Jaramillo have found proof that mice and rats perform similarly in cognitive tests.

"Mice have the potential to greatly accelerate our research. We didn't want to discount a very powerful option based on anecdotal evidence of their inferiority," Zador said in a news release.

Auditory experiments revealed that mice and rats performed similarly in perceptual ability and adaptability. The only difference between the two rodents was that rats learned a littler quicker faster than mice, according to study results.

 "We've found that mice, and all the genetic tools available in them, can be used to study the neural mechanisms underlying decision-making, and they might be suitable for other cognitive tasks as well," Zador concluded.

The findings were published online in the journal Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience.

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