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01 March 2010 Mystery of intelligence unravelled It's not a particular brain region that makes someone smart or not

smart. Nor is it the strength and speed of the connections throughout the brain or such features as total brain volume. Instead, new research shows, it's the connections between very specific areas of the brain that determine intelligence and often, by extension, how well someone does in life. "General intelligence actually relies on a specific network inside the brain, an d this is the connections between the grey matter, or cell bodies, and the white matter, or connecting fibers between neurons," said Jan Glascher, lead author o f a paper appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Gen eral intelligence relies on the connection between the frontal and the parietal [situated behind the frontal] parts of the brain." Communication between parts of the brain The results weren't entirely unexpected, said Keith Young, vice chairman of rese arch in psychiatry and behavioural science at Texas A&M Health Science Centre Co llege of Medicine in Temple, but "it is confirmation of the idea that good commu nication between various parts of brain are very important for this generalised intelligence." General intelligence is an abstract notion developed in 1904 that has always bee n somewhat controversial. "People noticed a long time ago that, in general, people who are good test-taker s did well in a lot of different subjects," explained Young. "If you're good in mathematics, you're also usually good in English. Researchers came up with this idea that this represented a kind of overall intelligence." Smart across different domains "General intelligence is this notion that smart people tend to be smart across a ll different kinds of domains," added Glascher, who is a post-doctoral fellow in the department of humanities and social sciences at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Hoping to learn more, the authors located 241 patients who had some sort of brai n lesion. They then diagrammed the location of their lesions and had them take I Q tests. "We took patients who had damaged parts of their brain, tested them on intellige nce to see where they were good and where they were bad, then we correlated thos e scores across all the patients with the location of the brain lesions," Glasch er explained. "That way, you can highlight the areas that are associated with re duced performance on these tests which, by the reverse inference, means these ar eas are really important for general intelligence." Expected results "These studies infer results based on the absence of brain tissue," added Paul S anberg, distinguished professor of neurosurgery and director of the University o f South Florida Centre for Ageing and Brain Repair in Tampa. "It allows them to systemise and pinpoint areas important to intelligence." Young said the findings echo what's come before. "The map they came up with was

what we expected and involves areas of the cortex we thought would be involved the parietal and frontal cortex. They're important for language and mathematics ," he said. In an earlier study, the same team of investigators found that this brain networ k was also important for working memory, "the ability to hold a certain number o f items [in your mind]," Glascher said. "In the past, people have associated gen eral intelligence very strongly with enhanced working memory capacity so there's a close theoretical connection with that." - (Amanda Gardner/HealthDay News, Ma rch 2010)