Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Higher intelligence related to more efficiently organized brains-bigger/larger not always better

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Diffusion markers of dendritic density and arborization in gray matter predict differences in intelligence. Article link.

Erhan Genç, Christoph Fraenz, Caroline Schlüter, Patrick Friedrich, Rüdiger Hossiep, Manuel C. Voelkle, Josef M. Ling, Onur Güntürkün, & Rex E. Jung


Previous research has demonstrated that individuals with higher intelligence are more likely to have larger gray matter volume in brain areas predominantly located in parieto-frontal regions. These findings were usually interpreted to mean that individuals with more cortical brain volume possess more neurons and thus exhibit more computational capacity during reasoning. In addition, neuroimaging studies have shown that intelligent individuals, despite their larger brains, tend to exhibit lower rates of brain activity during reasoning. However, the microstructural architecture underlying both observations remains unclear. By combining advanced multi-shell diffusion tensor imaging with a culture-fair matrix-reasoning test, we found that higher intelligence in healthy individuals is related to lower values of dendritic density and arborization. These results suggest that the neuronal circuitry associated with higher intelligence is organized in a sparse and efficient manner, fostering more directed information processing and less cortical activity during reasoning.

From discussion

Taken together, the results of the present study contribute to our understanding of human intelligence differences in two ways. First, our findings confirm an important observation from previous research, namely, that bigger brains with a higher number of neurons are associated with higher intelligence. Second, we demonstrate that higher intelligence is associated with cortical mantles with sparsely and well-organized dendritic arbor, thereby increasing processing speed and network efficiency. Importantly, the findings obtained from our experimental sample were confirmed by the analysis of an independent validation sample from the Human Connectome Project25

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