Manipulating the Brain Network Could Improve IQ

Jun 10, 2009 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Brain
Credit: University of Wisconsin and Michigan State Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections and the National Museum of Health and Medicine

In an attempt to investigate why some brains are more intelligent than others, researchers have found that efficient wiring between different brain regions is associated with a higher IQ. This understanding could potentially lead to the development of drugs that could improve IQ by improving the brain's network efficiency.

Martijn van den Heuvel, a neuroscientist at Utrecht University Medical Center who led the new study, explained that the concept of a networked brain is similar to a transportation grid, with the brain using its network to send information from one region to another.

In their study, the scientists scanned the brains of 19 subjects at rest using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Because the brains were at rest, the revealed the "default" underlying connectivity between . Brain connectivity reflects how many steps are required to send information between different regions of the brain.

When comparing the connectivity networks, the researchers found a link between connectivity efficiency and the subject's IQ, with connectivity explaining about 30% of the difference between subjects. However, the researchers did not find a link between the total number of connections in the brain and IQ. "We show that more intelligent people don't have more connections, but they have more efficiently placed connections," van den Heuvel said.

In the future, the scientists hope to investigate the possibilities of manipulating the brain's connectivity efficiency in order to create more efficient brain networks, and possibly boost IQ. Previous research has found a genetic component to white matter in the , which is also related to intelligence. By understanding how these genes work, scientists may be able to figure out how to manipulate the genes, leading to improved intelligence.

More information: Journal of Neuroscience (DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1442-09.2009)

Via: New Scientist

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Myria83
4 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2009
..."with connectivity explaining about 30% of the difference between subjects"...

How can they draw this kind of conclusions from a study involving 19 subjects only?
no1enter
not rated yet Jun 10, 2009
Probably because its to expensive to bring in more people for the study, as the companies that 'rent' the use of MRI machines charge so much do to the multi-million dollar cost of each machine.
El_Nose
not rated yet Jun 10, 2009
I remember a movie called lawnmower man by stephn king that had a similair concept. The new super genius man then takes over the world because he became too aggressive.

I wonder what effect effecient pathways have on things like aggression, passion, and decision making. Will this reworking affects the pituitary gland especially.
gmurphy
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2009
Myria83, good point.
GlenM
not rated yet Jun 10, 2009
I have done some research in this area. Making intraareal connections or even distant interareal ones is very difficult once the giant depolarizing potentials have stopped. Making such long range connections after the cessation of GDPs would be very disruptive.
jimbo92107
not rated yet Jun 11, 2009
I held a magnet to my head once. It didn't make me smarter, but I felt more attractive...
PinkElephant
not rated yet Jun 28, 2009
I'd be careful trying to boost the brain's connectivity willy-nilly. Some nasty side-effects may emerge if it isn't done just right: like grand mal seizures, for example...

There's probably a good reason why most modern brains aren't as optimal as they could theoretically be. There's got to be a cost to genius: some get lucky and don't have to pay the piper; others may end up in institutions or dead... or maybe something more prosaic, such as failing to procreate...