Brain network related to intelligence identified

September 11, 2007
Brain Areas Important to Intelligence
The photo illustration shows brain areas important to intelligence. Credit: UCI

A primary mystery puzzling neuroscientists -- where in the brain lies intelligence" -- just may have a unified answer.

In a review of 37 imaging studies related to intelligence, including their own, Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine and Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico have uncovered evidence of a distinct neurobiology of human intelligence. Their Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory (P-FIT) identifies a brain network related to intelligence, one that primarily involves areas in the frontal and the parietal lobes.

Their report includes peer commentary from 19 researchers and appears online in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

“Recent neuroscience studies suggest that intelligence is related to how well information travels throughout the brain,” said Haier, a professor of psychology in the School of Medicine and longtime human intelligence researcher. “Our review of imaging studies identifies the stations along the routes intelligent information processing takes. Once we know where the stations are, we can study how they relate to intelligence.”

The data suggest that some of the brain areas related to intelligence are the same areas related to attention and memory and to more complex functions like language. Haier and Jung say this possible integration of cognitive functions suggests that intelligence levels might be based on how efficient the frontal-parietal networks process information.

Brain imaging studies of intelligence are relatively new, with Haier doing some of the first ones only 20 years ago. Although there is still discussion about how to define and measure intelligence, Haier and Jung found surprising consistency in the studies they reviewed despite the fact the studies represented a variety of approaches.

In his peer commentary, University of Washington psychologist Earl Hunt writes: “The Jung & Haier P-FIT model shows how far we have progressed toward understanding the biological basis of intelligence. Twenty-five years ago researchers in the field were engaged in an unedifying discussion of the relation between skull sizes and intelligence test scores. By taking advantage of the huge advances in measurement of the brain that have occurred in the past quarter century, [Jung and Haier] can take the far more sophisticated view that individual differences in intelligence depend, in part, upon individual differences in specific areas of the brain and in the connections between them.”

Haier and Jung have made some of the seminal findings in intelligence studies. In a 2004 study, they found that regions related to general intelligence are located throughout the brain and that a single “intelligence center,” such as the frontal lobe, is unlikely. And in a 2005 study, they found that while there are essentially no disparities in general intelligence between the sexes, women have more white matter and men more gray matter related to intelligence test scores, suggesting that no single neuroanatomical structure determines general intelligence and that different types of brain designs can produce equivalent intellectual performance.

“Genetic research has demonstrated that intelligence levels can be inherited, and since genes work through biology, there must be a biological basis for intelligence,” Haier said. “We have a long way to go before we understand the details, but our P-FIT model provides a framework for testing new hypotheses in future experiments.”

Source: University of California - Irvine

Explore further: Hundreds of genes linked to intelligence in global study

Related Stories

Hundreds of genes linked to intelligence in global study

March 14, 2018
More than 500 genes linked to intelligence have been identified in the largest study of its kind. Scientists compared variation in DNA in more than 240,000 people from around the world, to discover which genes are associated ...

Brain activity at rest provides clue to intelligence

March 7, 2018
The ability of an adult to learn and to perform cognitive tests is directly linked to how active the brain is at rest, UNSW researchers have found.

Toward an unconscious neural reinforcement intervention for common fears

March 6, 2018
In a new study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, an international team of scientists reported that diminish phobias in subjects by directly manipulating brain activity, while completely ...

Mosquitoes spreading Zika virus in parts of U.S.: CDC

March 8, 2018
(HealthDay)—Zika infections are on the rise in parts of the United States where mosquitoes spread the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Brain imaging helps redefine intelligence

February 13, 2018
High-tech scans of the resting human brain can provide a new way to define and interpret the brain's actual mental capacity, new research suggests.

New brain mapping technique highlights relationship between connectivity and IQ

January 2, 2018
A new and relatively simple technique for mapping the wiring of the brain has shown a correlation between how well connected an individual's brain regions are and their intelligence, say researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Recommended for you

Human 'chimeric' cells restore crucial protein in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

March 16, 2018
Cells made by fusing a normal human muscle cell with a muscle cell from a person with Duchenne muscular dystrophy —a rare but fatal form of muscular dystrophy—were able to significantly improve muscle function when implanted ...

Team develops 3-D tissue model of a developing human heart

March 16, 2018
The heart is the first organ to develop in the womb and the first cause of concern for many parents.

Democratizing science: Researchers make neuroscience experiments easier to share, reproduce

March 16, 2018
Over the past few years, scientists have faced a problem: They often cannot reproduce the results of experiments done by themselves or their peers.

Genetic variant discovery to help asthma sufferers

March 16, 2018
Research from the University of Liverpool, published today in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, identifies a genetic variant that could improve the safety and effectiveness of corticosteroids, drugs that are used to treat a range ...

Researchers say use of artificial intelligence in medicine raises ethical questions

March 15, 2018
In a perspective piece, Stanford researchers discuss the ethical implications of using machine-learning tools in making health care decisions for patients.

Study identifies potential drug for treatment of debilitating inherited neurological disease

March 15, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have demonstrated in mouse studies that the neurological disease spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) can be successfully treated with drugs. The finding paves the way for ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.