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Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 10, 2016
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ize may matter
after all, when it
comes to IQ. A
brain imaging study sug-
gests that human intellect
is based on the volume of
grey matter in certain brain
regions, challenging alter-
native views about the
basis of intelligence.
Researchers have been trying to pin-
point the biological roots of intelligence
for decades. More than 25 years ago, a
weak correlation was found between
IQ and overall brain size. Others have
suggested that level of intelligence is
due to the size of the frontal lobe.
Now, however, a common view is
that more subtle characteristics are
likely to be involved, such as the
speed at which nerve impulses travel
in the brain, or the number of neu-
ronal connections present.
This study challenges that idea,
suggesting that the volume of certain
brain regions may have an effect
Richard Haier from the University
of California, Irvine, and colleagues
used magnetic resonance imaging to
measure the amount of grey matter
in the brains of 47 adults, who also
took standard IQ tests.
SCORING THE BRAIN
The researchers divided the brain
into sections and imaged the amount
of grey matter in each one. Grey mat-
ter is a diffuse network of brain re-
gions thought to be involved in
information processing. It is rich in
nerve cell bodies and looks grey to the
They found that people with high
IQ scores had significantly more grey
matter in 24 of the regions than peo-
ple with lower scores. Many of the
areas, which are spread throughout
the brain, are known to be related to
memory, attention and language.
Haier believes that different as-
pects of intelligence might depend on
the amount of grey matter in these
different brain regions. "This may be
why one person is quite good at
mathematics and not so good at
spelling, and another person, with the
same IQ, has the opposite pattern of
abilities," he says.
However, Haier and his colleagues
also found that only about 6 per cent
of the total grey matter in the brain
seems to be related to IQ.
Nerve cells in these particular areas
may work to allow the brain to
process information more efficiently,
suggests Haier. "There is a constant
cascade of information being
processed in the entire brain, but in-
telligence seems related to an effi-
cient use of relatively few structures,
where the more grey matter the bet-
ter," he says.
The finding is intriguing, according
to Robert Plomin, who studies intelli-
gence at the Institute of Psychiatry,
King's College London. Out of all the
possible brain characteristics that
could be linked to intelligence, "it's
surprising to find that the simplest of
all these measures, brain-region size,
is the most highly correlated," he
says. That said, the correlation is not
huge, he adds.
Intelligence researcher John Dun-
can from the Cognition and Brain Sci-
ences Unit at Cambridge adds a
further note of caution, pointing out
that it is still possible the correlation
the researchers saw is due to chance.
"It's difficult to say exactly what the
study means," he says.
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