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Medical NYT: Smart brains develop differently, scans show

  1. Apr 2, 2006 #1


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    Nicolas Wade is a good science journalist but we should keep skeptical about this, it is the first study AFAIK of this sort and it will have to be repeated and there will probably be some critical reaction. but I thought it might be interesting to mention at PF anyway.
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  3. Apr 2, 2006 #2
    First I would like to see proof that IQ = intelligence.
    Almost anyone can improve his IQ through practice. That does not mean practice = intelligence.
  4. Apr 2, 2006 #3


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    that is something that I don't require, sid. I am not interested here in "intelligence" in any profound sense, only in something they can measure.

    general "intelligence" is too vague an idea-----like "virtue" or "creativity" or "sympathy" or "courage"----to be useful in some research like this.

    but here they had some rough measure namely performance at age 7 on a certain test (which the kids had presumably NOT practiced and trained for)

    this performance measure (whether or not you think it corresponds to anything valuable to the individual or society) CORRELATED with having a thinner layer of cells at age 7 and a scenario of development delayed for several years in reaching max thickness

    the ones who scored high on the test had thinner cortical layers and didnt get max thickness until age 12 or 13, whereas the others developed earlier to max at age 7 or 8 IIRC


    to me that would be interesting, if true
    It strikes me as surprising that, say, a multiple-choice test at age 7 predicts whether a certain cortex layer of cells will thicken rapidly or slowly
    that seems really puzzling, could have various explanations

    or do you not find it interesting?
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2006
  5. Apr 3, 2006 #4
    I find it interesting and more persuasive, correctly or not, to look at the number of neurons and how they prune rather than cruder things like brain size, in the search for a physical correlate of intelligence. This suggestion of this study is that people who end up more intelligent spend a longer time building up more neurons which are then prunned more efficiently. More redundancy to begin with could allow for much more sophisticated pruning, at least in principle.

    It suggests the analogy, which may or may not ultimately pertain, to the creation of a film or book: the more preliminary research, or feet of footage shot, the more the writer or editor has to work with to create an effectively compact product.

    Of course, that begs more questions about what guarrantees, or, at least, governs, the quality and ultimate greater compactness of the editing? Is quality and trimness somehow an automatic concommitant of the slower buildup of greater quantity? Or does a pre-existing "editor" (whatever that might be, a gene, posssibly) cause the slower buildup of greater quantity and subsequent more dramatic pruning back?

    Anyway, I do find the whole thing interesting and am glad you posted it.
  6. Apr 3, 2006 #5
    I find it very interesting but IMO, to draw any conclusions, the first research that needs to be done is what IQ really means. Is it determined genetically or environmentally? Can it be improved to highs like 160-180 by an ordinary person or is that capability determined at birth? What relation does that capability have to thinking and creativity/passion/skill etc.

    Because without that, the whole experiment would have little value.
  7. Apr 3, 2006 #6


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    Sid, all that research has been done in spades years ago. Read Arthur Jensen's magesterial book The G Factor. Repace the test-dependent idea of IQ with the intertest statistic g, we can say:

    • g is between 50 and 80 percent inherited
    • g is very strongly correlated with physical measures like reaction time
    • different subpouplations have different g distributions
    • g is heavily correlated with ability to learn and plan rationally

    Recent studies using functional MRI have shown that differences in g correlate with different amounts of gray matter in the frontal cortex.
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