Youth with superior IQ are distinguished by how fast the thinking part of their brains thickens and thins as they grow up, researchers at the National Institutes of Healths (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have discovered. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans showed that their brains outer mantle, or cortex, thickens more rapidly during childhood, reaching its peak later than in their peers – perhaps reflecting a longer developmental window for high-level thinking circuitry. It also thins faster during the late teens, likely due to the withering of unused neural connections as the brain streamlines its operations. Drs. Philip Shaw, Judith Rapoport, Jay Giedd and colleagues at NIMH and McGill University report on their findings in the March 30, 2006 issue of Nature.
The developmental trajectory of waxing and waning in cortex thickness differs as the brain matures in different IQ groups. Thickness of the area at the top/front/center, highlighted in MRI brain...
"Studies of brains have taught us that people with higher IQs do not have larger brains. Thanks to brain imaging technology, we can now see that the difference may be in the way the brain develops," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.
While most previous MRI studies of brain development compared data from different children at different ages, the NIMH study sought to control for individual variation in brain structure by following the same 307 children and teens, ages 5-19, as they grew up. Most were scanned two or more times, at two-year intervals. The resulting scans were divided into three equal groups and analyzed based on IQ test scores: superior (121-145), high (109-120), and average (83-108).
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