In a new study has managed to obtain what we might describe as a map of the physical architecture of intelligence in the brain, or the plans of operation of the brain machinery.
This study is one of the largest and most thorough analyses done so far on brain structures that are vital to general intelligence and specific aspects of intellect, such as verbal comprehension and working memory. Furthermore, this study is unique in the fact that the achievement of it is told with 182 ex-combatants of the Vietnam War, with localized brain injury with high accuracy as a result of penetrating wounds to the head. Being as specific cases, 182 patients is a high amount.
It’s a challenge to find patients (for research) that have brain lesions in very specific regions, as highlighted by Aron Barbey, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Illinois, who led the study. The most common brain injury resulting from a stroke for example, often affect several brain areas, complicating the task of identifying cognitive contributions of specific brain structures.
In contrast, brain lesions in very specific regions, analyzed during the study allowed the researchers to make inferences about how specific brain structures are necessary for cognitive functions. Studying how brain lesions in particular regions produce specific forms of cognitive impairment, the team has Barbey map the architecture of the mind, identifying brain structures that are critical for specific intellectual abilities.
The researchers scanned the brains of participants with computed tomography and made them numerous cognitive tests. They combined data from these scans by CT scan, to produce a collective map of the cerebral cortex, dividing it into more than three thousand units called voxels dimensional (volume elements). Looking for volunteers with damage to a voxel or set of voxels in particular and cognitive skills compared with those patients in whom these same structures were intact, the researchers were able to identify brain regions essential for specific cognitive functions, and those structures that contribute significantly to intelligence.
The most important structures for general intelligence are located mainly between the left prefrontal cortex (behind the forehead), the left temporal cortex (behind the ear) and left parietal cortex (at the top back of the head) and as in the association tracts of white matter (the “wiring” the brain) that connect all these regions.
The researchers also found that brain regions important for planning, self-control and other aspects of executive function overlap extensively with areas vital to general intelligence.
The study provides new evidence that intelligence is not dependent on a single brain region or the brain as a whole, but is based on specific brain areas working together in a coordinated manner.
The research also involved scientists from the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain, as well as the following U.S. organizations: the Medical Numerics Company in Germantown, Maryland, George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the University of Delaware, and the Foundation Kessler in West Orange, New Jersey.