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Intelligent People Have Better Brain Communication

S u m m a r y :
Intelligent people have a better system of communication within their brain: specific brain regions interact with each other more closely than in people less endowed. The new findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Brains Better At Self-Communication

Humans are known to have different levels of intelligence as per their cognitive abilities, something that might be reflected in academic and professional performances. These variations in ‘smartness’ are often associated with differences in specific brain regions. This contrast has, now, been brought a step further: the connection between these brain regions is also dissimilar, suggests the new study conducted by researchers from Goethe University Frankfurt. The findings show that certain brain regions ‘talk’ to each other better than with other regions in intelligent people; specific brain areas will have a stronger involvement in the flow of information than other brain regions.

The team has investigated human intelligence in terms of its neurobiological origin through the analysis of MRI brain scans obtained from over 300 participants, combining these with modern graph theoretical network analysis methods.

‘Intelligence Regions’ & Their Connection

The same group of investigators had previously identified, back in 2015, ‘intelligence regions’ in the human brain. However, what remained unknown was the way in which these areas were functionally connected. The scientists have also, recently, found a more efficient connection between two brain regions (ones normally involved in cognition) and the rest of the brain in people deemed more intelligent; also, a brain area linked with the protection of thoughts from irrelevant information was found to be less strongly connected to other brain parts.

“The different topological embedding of these regions into the brain network could make it easier for smarter persons to differentiate between important and irrelevant information—which would be advantageous for many cognitive challenges,” says study lead author Ulrike Basten.

Your Brain is Like Your Social Network

Describing the brain, the Basten and his colleagues explain that the brain is divided into functional modules, likening this system to a social sub-networks such as family, close friends, acquaintances. Some of these modules (the sub-networks of brain areas) would have a stronger interconnection with each other, and weaker ones with other modules. Based on this, the researchers wanted to understand whether there was a variation in the function of specific brain areas for communication in and among the brain modules across different levels of intelligence, that is, “whether a specific brain region supports the information exchange within their own ‘family’ more than information exchange with other ‘families’, and how this relates to individual differences in intelligence.”

Intelligent Brains Leave Distractions

The findings show that people of higher intelligence levels have certain brain areas that play a greater role in the exchange of information between different brain modules such that important information is communicated at a fast and efficient rate. These same people also have brain regions that more strongly disconnected (‘de-coupled’) from the rest of the network, a trait that might be shielding them from distraction and irrelevant data. These network properties have been interpreted to help people who are more intelligent than others to focus mentally while turning a blind eye to unrelated and disturbing input.

How to Become More Intelligent?

Now, how is this organisation brought about? Is it inborn, or do we have a say in it? The scientists yet have to figure that one out.

“It is possible that due to their biological predispositions, some individuals develop brain networks that favour intelligent behaviours or more challenging cognitive tasks. However, it is equally as likely that the frequent use of the brain for cognitively challenging tasks may positively influence the development of brain networks. Given what we currently know about intelligence, an interplay of both processes seems most likely,” explain the authors.

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