Researchers discover the first-ever link between intelligence and curiosity

September 14, 2009 By Melissa McDermott,

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from University of Toronto and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital have discovered a molecular link between intelligence and curiosity, which may lead to the development of drugs to improve learning.

In a paper published Sept. 10 in the highly-respected journal Neuron, Professor John Roder of U of T's Department of , a senior investigator at the Lunenfeld, and Bechara Saab, PhD candidate at the Lunenfeld, studied the interaction of two proteins in a small region of the brain called the dentate gyrus (one of three parts of the hippocampus, which plays an important role in long-term memory and spatial navigation).

"Dr. Roder and Bechara Saab have made a discovery in a region of the brain that has been under-explored in the past," said Dr. Jim Woodgett, director of the Lunenfeld. "This molecular link holds promise for future cognitive therapies."

For the study, the neuronal calcium sensor-1 (NCS-1), a protein which is known to affect the memory of worms and is linked to bipolar and schizophrenia in people, was increased by one-and-a-half fold specifically in the dentate gyrus of mouse models. This modest overexpression increased the ability of to change how they communicate with each other and gave the mice superior memory in complex tasks and a significant increase in exploratory behaviour (curiosity).

Because the exploratory behaviour was only altered in safe environments, Roder and Saab believe they have discovered a region of the brain that generates curiosity and a model for how brain activity leads to curiosity.

The researchers also discovered that both curiosity and spatial memory were impaired when a benign drug (developed at Mount Sinai) blocked the NCS-1 protein from binding to the dopamine type-2 receptors (a major target of anti-psychotics) in the dentate gyrus.

"Now that we know that some of the molecules and regions that control learning and also control curiosity, we can go back to the lab and design drugs that may improve cognition in humans - that's the potential benefit for the future," explained Saab. "Immediately, however, we can put into use the knowledge that fostering curiosity should also foster intelligence and vice versa."


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Provided by University of Toronto (news : web)

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8 comments

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plasticpower
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 14, 2009
Very interesting. Being more curious = wanting to learn more. I like this. I wonder if they will be able to come up with some sort of an attention booster type supplement that actually works in the future.
ancible
5 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2009
Of course, being more curious doesn't guarantee curiosity in more intelligent topics. Think, for a smile, of absolutely being unable stop link surfing youtube...
Smellyhat
not rated yet Sep 14, 2009
That scientists are only now discovering this suggests that the link may be fairly tenuous. On the other hand, perhaps they have made a important breakthrough in veterinary medicine: perhaps the unnamed drug will prove effective in the treatment of moribund feline curiosus.
NickFun
not rated yet Sep 14, 2009
Does this mean there will be a drug that will make us more curious thus more intelligent? If so will we become so curious as to wipe out our own civilization? I'm just reminded of the dead cat...
Bob_B
not rated yet Sep 14, 2009
Students wanting to take the S.A.T. will be required to take "performance enhancement" drug tests. Why should a student taking drugs get into a valuable medical school spot? These intellectual druggies should be banned from TV game shows, like Jeopardy!

Drugs, drugs, drugs. A rose is a rose is a rose.
Mauricio
2.2 / 5 (5) Sep 15, 2009
Bob...

there are alternatives to enhance brain function. Having a healthy diet (high in fiber, high in fruits, medium in vegetables and grains, low in meats, very low sugar), taking herbal supplements (like bacopa, vinpocetine, etc), working out regularly (yoga and weights) and having emotional/spiritual work (meditation, prayer), and good recreational drugs (marijuana, lsd, etc- in sharp contrast to alcohol) can/will improve the working of one's brain...

No need for drugs.

Bob_Kob
Sep 15, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
paulthebassguy
not rated yet Sep 21, 2009
On the other hand though, increased curiosity may make it harder to focus on one task at a time. So people that are curious will know some information about many things, but may be predisposed to never be a specialist in a particular area.

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