Researchers question whether genius might be a result of hormonal influences

Mar 11, 2011

A longstanding debate as to whether genius is a byproduct of good genes or good environment has an upstart challenger that may take the discussion in an entirely new direction. University of Alberta researcher Marty Mrazik says being bright may be due to an excess level of a natural hormone.

Mrazik, a professor in the Faculty of Education's educational psychology department, and a colleague from Rider University in the U.S., have published a paper in Roeper Review linking giftedness (having an of 130 or higher) to of higher levels of testosterone. Mrazik hypothesizes that, in the same way that physical and cognitive deficiencies can be developed in utero, so, too, could similar exposure to this naturally occurring chemical result in giftedness.

"There seems to be some evidence that excessive prenatal exposure to facilitates increased connections in the brain, especially in the right ," said Mrazik. "That's why we see some intellectually gifted people with distinct that you don't see in the normal population."

Mrazik's notion came from observations made during clinical assessments of gifted individuals. He and his fellow researcher observed some specific traits among the subjects. This finding stimulated a conversation on the role of early development in setting the foundation for giftedness.

"It gave us some interesting ideas that there could be more to this notion of genius being predetermined from a biological perspective than maybe people gave it credit for," said Mrazik. "It seemed that the bulk of evidence from new technologies (such as Functional MRI scans) tell us that there's a little bit more going on than a genetic versus environmental interaction."

Based on their observations, the researchers made the hypothesis that this hormonal "glitch" in the in-utero neurobiological development means that gifted children are born with an affinity for certain areas such as the arts, math or science. Mrazik cautions that more research is needed to determine what exact processes may cause the development of the gifted brain.

He notes that more is known about what derails the brain's normal development, thus charting what makes gifted people gifted is very much a new frontier. Mrazik hopes that devices such as the Functional MRI scanner will give them a deeper understanding of the role of neurobiology in the development of the gifted brain.

"It's really hard to say what does put the brain in a pathway where it's going to be much more precocious," he said. "The next steps in this research lay in finding out what exact stimuli causes this atypical brain development."

Explore further: A new way to diagnose malaria, using magnetic fields

Related Stories

The new myths of gifted education (w/ Podcast)

Nov 02, 2009

More than 25 years after myths about gifted education were first explored, they are all still with us and new ones have been added, according to research published in the current Gifted Child Quarterly (GCQ), the official journa ...

Education professor dispels myths about gifted children

Jan 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Though not often recognized as "special needs" students, gifted children require just as much attention and educational resources to thrive in school as do other students whose physical, behavioral, emotional ...

Prenatal meth exposure linked to abnormal brain development

Apr 15, 2009

A first of its kind study examining the effects of methamphetamine use during pregnancy has found the drug appears to cause abnormal brain development in children. The research is published in the April 15, 2009, online issue ...

Recommended for you

Gamers helping in Ebola research

8 hours ago

Months before the recent Ebola outbreak erupted in Western Africa, killing more than a thousand people, scientists at the University of Washington's Institute for Protein Design were looking for a way to stop the deadly virus.

Carcinogenic role of a protein in liver decoded

11 hours ago

The human protein EGFR controls cell growth. It has mutated in case of many cancer cells or exists in excessive numbers. For this reason it serves as a point of attack for target-oriented therapies. A study ...

A new way to diagnose malaria, using magnetic fields

Aug 31, 2014

Over the past several decades, malaria diagnosis has changed very little. After taking a blood sample from a patient, a technician smears the blood across a glass slide, stains it with a special dye, and ...

User comments : 9

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Birthmark
not rated yet Mar 11, 2011
Does increases in testosterone later on in life stimulate the brain in any way? Could it have beneficial effects for newborns, in utero?
fuviss_co_uk
3 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2011
I don't think so, look at bodybuilders, are they all geniuses ?
Birthmark
not rated yet Mar 11, 2011
I don't think so, look at bodybuilders, are they all geniuses ?


That's why I'm interested in this study, what if the testosterone only affects the children early on (in utero) -- if so why?
fuviss_co_uk
not rated yet Mar 11, 2011
I read not so long ago article here, that brain is not mature till people are in their 30's and 40's, so maybe we can enhance our intelligence in later life, but I rather look at some kinds of brain stimulations ( faster electrical connections in brain etc), also a lot of discoveries in this field nowadays, so I am an optimist :)
Doschx
3.5 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2011
Something this article seems to say without actually saying it: a person is precocious by birth. Nature vs. Nurture = solved, i.e. a person can be born a genius and live normally, but a person born normally cannot become a genius. That's not to say nurture has no effect, as that person's life will see whether or not they live up to or unlock the gifts they have been given.

Seems like Nature sets a maximum potential and Nurture limits it. That is, if I take everything this article says at face value like a gullible sap.

And perhaps fuviss is right, and a human is malleable for a period of time.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (6) Mar 11, 2011
This seems rather sexist, as it would be contrary to the notion a woman can be both naturally feminine, and genius. And it suggests gay (effeminate) males are less likely to be geniuses too.

Sorry, I don't buy it.
fuviss_co_uk
not rated yet Mar 11, 2011
This seems rather sexist, as it would be contrary to the notion a woman can be both naturally feminine, and genius. And it suggests gay (effeminate) males are less likely to be geniuses too.

Sorry, I don't buy it.


what the sexual orientation has common with testosterone level ? It's in the brain, not in the test level...
ubavontuba
2 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2011
what the sexual orientation has common with testosterone level ? It's in the brain, not in the test level...

Apparently then, you aren't up on the latest research.

Here's some information on the topic:

http:/www.sciencemag.org/content/211/4488/1312.abstract

http:/www.autismresearchcentre.com/docs/papers/
2009_Auyeung_etal_PsycholSci.pdf

http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Prenatal_hormones_and_sexual_orientation

http:/www.physorg.com/news197211098.html
LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2011
i dont think you can really measure any kind of genius in this way anyways.you can be a genius in one area but an absolute moron in other areas. some can explain how things work in the tiniest little detail with a quick glance at the inside of a machine, yet those same people may lack the ability to do common sense things simply because their brain looks beyond the simple answer.

@fuviss-have you seen the commercial with the bodybuilder where all he knows how to say is "i lift things up then put them down" in a german accent? seems to apply universally i think...

if there was a chemical responsible, I doubt its testosterone (check levels in genius women, they should match or be close to the genius man-I bet they aren't)