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The intelligence of the intelligence tests

The world is full of puzzles

Intelligent is someone who can solve intelligence tests. Point from Basta. Not resist talking! Today I'll just grab the power of definition and tell you why: The metaphysical oath must finally come to an end! We have to put the findings of psychologists and brain researchers on a common empirical basis and from there take the first step in the right direction. What do the nerve cells of the brain have to do with the so defined intelligence? A whole lot….

Which brain regions are active in solving intelligence tests?

A research group of paediatricians from Bethesda, USA and neurologists from Montreal, Canada had 307 children and adolescents (aged 6 to 19 years) complete an intelligence test and at the same time observed with a functional magnetic resonance tomograph which areas of the brain are particularly active [1]. They were areas in the prefrontal cortex. It can best be compared with a control center that plans complex actions and trains of thought and controls emotions

Fig.1: The prefrontal cortexThe prefrontal cortex, colored orange, in the side view of the left cerebral hemisphere with the numbering of the Brodmann areas.

The same test persons were examined in this way repeatedly over several years and attention was paid to the thickness of the cerebral cortex in the individual brain regions. In humans, this cerebral cortex consists of six layers of nerve cells and is about 1-5 mm thick, depending on the location. The scientists found the following: Up to the age of 11, the absolute cortex thickness increased and there was no correlation between the cortex thickness and the IQ of the children. In children with a high IQ, this growth in the prefrontal cortex was particularly rapid and lasted particularly long. From 11 to 16, the cortex thickness decreased and reached adult levels. This shrinkage process also happened particularly quickly in children with a high IQ. Children with a high IQ were thus characterized by a particularly long and pronounced neural plasticity in the prefrontal cortex.

These findings were supplemented by a study by the neurologists Gläscher and Adolphs [2]: They allowed 241 patients with precisely known, locally limited brain damage to take part in an intelligence test. The researchers calculated the correlation between the brain regions in which there was damage and the result of the intelligence test. They found a high correlation between the brain regions in the frontal and parietal lobes. These are regions of the cerebrum that lie on the front and sides of the head. In this way, they were able to show that intelligence does not need the entire brain, but is also not localized in a single brain region.

Fig.2: The frontal and parietal lobesSide view of a human brain: the frontal lobe = frontal lobe, the parietal lobe = parietal lobe

Taken together, the two studies suggest that there is a generalizable factor G that has a decisive influence on intelligence. This means that there are areas of the brain which, as “all-purpose problem solvers”, have a decisive influence on how the most diverse tasks relating to language, mathematics and spatial imagination are solved. Above all, these brain regions in the frontal and parietal lobes enable efficient communication between the brain regions that are necessary for solving the test tasks. Intelligence is the result of efficient communication and the integration of certain nerve cell populations.

Is intelligence just procedural knowledge?

It's that simple - of course not. The structure of intelligence tests is controversial, the measure of performance in intelligence tests, the IQ, is still a cause for debate and, last but not least, some simply suspect a special form of intelligence behind everything they are good at. It starts with picking your nose and ends with the marriage brokerage. Is intelligence ultimately just procedural knowledge - so much ado about nothing? Then a computer that solves chess problems would be an example of an artificial intelligence.

Measuring is one thing, evaluating is often the next, and then there is the second level of many problems relating to the subject of intelligence. Is artificial intelligence the fifth insult to humankind (or fourth if you don't count Richard Dawkins)?

How do you define intelligence and why?
Is there artificial intelligence?
I look forward to your comments 😉

further reading

[1] P. Shaw, D. Greenstein, J. Lerch, L. Clasen, R. Lenroot, N. Gogtay, A. Evans, J. Rapoport & J. Giedd (2006) Intellectual ability and cortical development in children and adolescents . Nature, 440, 676-679.

[2] Gläscher J, Rudrauf D, Colom R, Paul LK, Tranel D, Damasio H, Adolphs R. (2010) Distributed neural system for general intelligence revealed by lesion mapping
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S.A. 107, (10), 4705-4709.


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Photo credit

Fig.1: The prefrontal cortex

Description: Vectorized recreation of Image: Gray726-Brodman.png with highlighted prefrontal cortex.
Date: June 30, 2008
Copyright: Tkgd2007 and Gray’s Anatomy
Source: Image: Gray726-Brodman.png Wikimedia Commons

Fig.2: The frontal and parietal lobes

Description: Side view of a human brain, cerebral lobes highlighted in color.
Date: August 30, 2007 (2007-08-30)
Author: NEUROtiker
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Some license

Shaw, P., Greenstein, D., Lerch, J., Clasen, L., Lenroot, R., Gogtay, N., Evans, A., Rapoport, J., & Giedd, J. (2006). Intellectual ability and cortical development in children and adolescents Nature, 440 (7084), 676-679 DOI: 10.1038 / nature04513

Joe Dramiga is a neurogeneticist and studied biology at the University of Cologne and King’s College London. In his doctoral thesis he dealt with gene expression in a mouse model for frontotemporal dementia. Frontotemporal dementia is a brain disease that is similar to both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Contact: jdramiga [at] googlemail [dot] com newsletter

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