Brain imaging can predict how intelligence varies from exceptionally smart humans to the average ones, a new research has said.

“Our research shows that connectivity with a particular part of the prefrontal cortex can predict how intelligent someone is,” lead author Michael W. Cole, a postdoctoral research fellow in cognitive neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis said.

The study suggests that another 10 per cent of individual differences in intelligence can be explained by the strength of neural pathways connecting the left lateral prefrontal cortex to the rest of the brain.

It has been pointed out that the brain’s lateral prefrontal cortex, a region just behind the temple, is a critical hub for high—level mental processing, with activity levels there predicting another 5 per cent of variation in individual intelligence.

The findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience, establish “global brain connectivity” as a new approach for understanding human intelligence.

The study is the first to provide compelling evidence that neural connections between the lateral prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain make a unique and powerful contribution to the cognitive processing underlying human intelligence, says Cole, whose research focuses on discovering the cognitive and neural mechanisms that make human behaviour uniquely flexible and intelligent.

“This study suggests that part of what it means to be intelligent is having a lateral prefrontal cortex that does its job well; and part of what that means is that it can effectively communicate with the rest of the brain,” study co-author Todd Braver said.

One possible explanation of the findings, the research team suggests, is that the lateral prefrontal region is a “flexible hub” that uses its extensive brain-wide connectivity to monitor and influence other brain regions in a goal-directed manner.

The findings also may offer new avenues for understanding how breakdowns in global brain connectivity contribute to the profound cognitive control deficits seen in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, Cole suggests.

(This article was published on August 2, 2012)
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