Their study, published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, is unique in that it enlisted an extraordinary pool of volunteer participants: 182 Vietnam veterans with highly localized brain damage from penetrating head injuries.
“It’s a significant challenge to find patients (for research) who have brain damage, and even further, it’s very hard to find patients who have focal brain damage,” said University of Illinois neuroscience professor Aron Barbey, who led the study. Brain damage – from stroke, for example – often impairs multiple brain areas, he said, complicating the task of identifying the cognitive contributions of specific brain structures.
But the very focal brain injuries analyzed in the study allowed the researchers “to draw inferences about how specific brain structures are necessary for performance,” Barbey said. “By studying how damage to particular brain regions produces specific forms of cognitive impairment, we can map the architecture of the mind, identifying brain structures that are critically important for specific intellectual abilities.”
The researchers took CT scans of the participants’ brains and administered an extensive battery of cognitive tests. They pooled the CT data to produce a collective map of the cortex, which they divided into more than 3,000 three-dimensional units called voxels. By analyzing multiple patients with damage to a particular voxel or cluster of voxels and comparing their cognitive abilities with those of patients in whom the same structures were intact, the researchers were able to identify brain regions essential to specific cognitive functions, and those structures that contribute significantly to intelligence.
“We found that general intelligence depends on a remarkably circumscribed neural system,” Barbey said. “Several brain regions, and the connections between them, were most important for general intelligence.”
These structures are located primarily within the left prefrontal cortex (behind the forehead), left temporal cortex (behind the ear) and left parietal cortex (at the top rear of the head) and in “white matter association tracts” that connect them. (Watch a video about the findings.)
The researchers also found that brain regions for planning, self-control and other aspects of executive function overlap to a significant extent with regions vital to general intelligence.
The study provides new evidence that intelligence relies not on one brain region or even the brain as a whole, Barbey said, but involves specific brain areas working together in a coordinated fashion.
“In fact, the particular regions and connections we found support an emerging body of neuroscience evidence indicating that intelligence depends on the brain’s ability to integrate information from verbal, visual, spatial and executive processes,” he said.
The findings will “open the door to further investigations into the biological basis of intelligence, exploring how the brain, genes, nutrition and the environment together interact to shape the development and continued evolution of the remarkable intellectual abilities that make us human,” Barbey said.The research team also included scientists from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; Medical Numerics, in Germantown, Md.; George Mason University; the University of Delaware; and the Kessler Foundation, in West Orange, N.J.
Barbey also is a professor of psychology and of speech and hearing science, an affiliate of the Beckman Institute, and the director of the Decision Neuroscience Laboratory at Illinois.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health provided funding for this research.Editor’s notes: To reach Aron Barbey, call 217-333-2230;
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
New gene potentially involved in metastasis identified
26.03.2019 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
Decoding the genomes of duckweeds: low mutation rates contribute to low genetic diversity
26.03.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Cancers that display a specific combination of sugars, called T-antigen, are more likely to spread through the body and kill a patient. However, what regulates...
DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.
The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
26.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
26.03.2019 | Earth Sciences
26.03.2019 | Earth Sciences