With three times as many neurons, why doesn’t the elephant brain outperform ours?.. Indeed, even though cognitive differences among species were once thought to be qualitative, with a number of cognitive capabilities once believed to be exclusive to humans, it is now recognized that the cognitive differences between humans and other animals are a matter of degree. That is, they are quantitative, not qualitative, differences... Chimpanzees, but also other primates, appear to infer others’ mental state, a requirement for showing deceitful behavior. Even birds seem to have knowledge of other individuals’ mental state, as magpies will overtly cache food in the presence of onlookers and then retrieve and move it to a secret location as soon as the onlookers are gone. Chimpanzees and gorillas, elephants, dolphins, and also magpies appear to recognize themselves in the mirror, using it to inspect a visible mark placed on their heads... They found that the best correlate with correct performance in the test of self-control was absolute brain volume—except for the Asian elephant, which, despite being the largest-brained in the set, failed miserably at the task... the cognitive literature that had long hailed the cerebral cortex (or, more precisely, the prefrontal part of the cerebral cortex) as the sole seat of higher cognition—abstract reasoning, complex decision making, and planning for the future... Despite the size of the African elephant cerebral cortex, the 5.6 billion neurons in it paled in comparison to the average 16 billion neurons concentrated in the much smaller human cerebral cortex.So here was our answer. No, the human brain does not have more neurons than the much larger elephant brain—but the human cerebral cortex has nearly three times as many neurons as the over twice as large cerebral cortex of the elephant.
.. So what do we have that no other animal has? A remarkable number of neurons in the cerebral cortex, the largest around, attainable by no other species, I say.
With three times as many neurons, why doesn’t the elephant brain outperform ours?