April 05, 2010


This evening, I came across a New Scientist article on Picking Our Brains : Nine Neural Frontiers and another interesting one on WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE SMARTER? which I thought I'd share with you....

Excerpt from HERE:

AT EINSTEIN's autopsy in 1955, his brain was something of a disappointment: it turned out to be a tad smaller than the average Joe's. Indeed, later studies have suggested a minimal link between brain size and intelligence. It seems brain quality rather than quantity is key.

One important factor seems to be how well our neurons can talk to each other. Martijn van den Heuvel, a neuroscientist at Utrecht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, found that smarter brains seem to have more efficient networks between neurons - in other words, it takes fewer steps to relay a message between different regions of the brain. That could explain about a third of the variation in a population's IQ, he says.

Another key factor is the insulating fatty sheath encasing neuron fibres, which affects the speed of electrical signals. Paul Thompson at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found a correlation between IQ and the quality of the sheaths (The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 29, p 2212).

We still don't know exactly how much genes contribute to intelligence, with various studies coming up with estimates ranging from 40 to 80 per cent. This wide range of estimates might have arisen because genes contribute more to IQ as we get older, according to a study published last year. By comparing the intelligence of 11,000 pairs of twins, Robert Plomin of King's College London found that at age 9, genes explain 40 per cent of the variation, but by 17 they account for roughly two-thirds (Molecular Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1038/mp.2009.55). CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

Interesting, isn't it? Do you agree with this? Do leave a comment if you wish to share your thoughts and views. Thanks!


Athos Georgiou said...


Even though i am by no means an accomplished scientist yet, from all my experience in arts and sciences for the past 10 years, i can say that measuring the size of the brain to define intelligence is like measuring a person's clothes to define their personality. Pointless, meaningless.

We are sill thousands of years away from defining smartness or intelligence, not because we are not intelligent enough, but because we are naive and childish.


masterwordsmith said...

Hi Athos

Lovely to hear from you again! I hope you are doing well in your new job.

Your comment is certainly reassuring to me :-)...

Somehow, I find that many scientists, psychologists and researchers love to pick our brains to discover what makes us tick and their findings are not always consistent!

Definitions of intelligence are far too subjective and can be quite intimidating as such.

I believe the most important thing is for us to maximize our potential and I believe you are doing just that and being such an inspiration to others like me to do the same!

Take care and do keep in touch!

God bless you!


Paper Wrapper said...

Hi, what a surprise to find you on another blog!

I resonate with this topic because being the pondering type, I'm always curious at what makes humans tick. When its said that genes contribute more to IQ as we get older, I'm not sure if they mean contribute negatively or positively. Its hard to tell from simple observation.

I do know that for some, the older they get, the crankier they get. Cranky people get emo for trivial reasons, and people who overreact often respond in ways that can hardly be called intelligent. Could deterriorating EQ be cutting off rising IQ at its feet?

In my opinion, high EQ and IQ scores are important to compete. But if its happiness one seeks, it is the wisdom score that counts. I don't see IQ and wisdom as synonymous. I have a couple of Mensa friends with IQ off the charts who are the most miserable people I ever met.

If only someone has come up with a way to score wisdom...

masterwordsmith said...

Hi Johan

What a lovely surprise to see you here! :-) Apart from this blog, there is another one which you can see in the blog roll aka Masterwordsmith@ Writers.Inc and a couple of other locked blogs here and there cos it is quite tiring to maintain so many :-).

Like you, this topic resonates with my heart. My older boy is a MENSA member with an IQ of 180 but ....:-). It has been a tough journey for the two of us but things have been great since 2007. I had to let go of my small ambitions and let him pursue his love so he is going to graduate this year with a degree in jazz music.

I do agree with you re IQ and EQ.

Usually, those with high IQ may not have low EQ as discussed by Daniel Goleman...Ultimately, peace of mind and soul is important and this is only possible when we come to terms with and accept who we are...:-)

Oh yea - I doubt ppl would be interested in how to score wisdom :-) cos it does not sell :-). Wish they did though...

Thanks for stopping by and do keep in touch.

P.S. I post other stuff here - mainly science and techie stuff...


Paper Wrapper said...

Jazz... but why not punk or black metal? Kidding. :-)

I've always seen IQ as quantitative and wisdom as qualitative. IQ is to structured logic as wisdom is to unstructured experience. IQ will tell us where best to drill for oil. Wisdom will tell us if we can live with the consequences of drilling. I suppose that is why engineers and decisionmakers sit in different rooms.

I think wisdom can be measured, not directly but indirectly. Its like measuring a black hole in space. You can't see it but you can measure its size from how objects near it react to its gravity. Using the same principle it is possible to infer wisdom from the effects of wisdom, things like track record. For instance how many mistakes and bad decisions one has made over time, and how many of these mistakes are repetitive (i.e. whether we have the capacity to 'wise up' or not.) As a collective we Malaysians score poorly there I would say, given how the same people are voted back to power again and again. We are not wise. But tests on adaptive learning ability can be found in any branch of AI studies I'm sure.

IMO, the thing that will fudge up any attempt to make wisdom measurement popular is culture, specifically how widom is attributed to things like faith, mysticism, even magic. We are taught that a) wise people are old people, b) wise people are religious or mystics. The biggest nightmare that could happen would be to measure an old well-known priest and find that all those years had done nothing to make him wiser. Think of what that could do to the faithful.

masterwordsmith said...

Dear Johan

Actually, my boy was into heavy metal but since going to uni, his taste has shifted to jazz so we can actually talk about Bob Dylan, Cole Porter etc!

Thank you so much for your very insightful and profound comment. You are definitely a very sharp thinker with such an erudite style in writing. Am really awed!

Generally, Malaysians lack wisdom as can be seen by the voting trends and the way many are swayed by fallacies and rhetorical bs. The decline in education standards and slow death of the reading habit have exacerbated the situation.

Also, it has paved the way for many to be victims of cults etc.

Wisdom? May God bless us with more and more wisdom...

Take care and thanks so much for a thought-provoking comment.

Keep in touch.

Have a blessed weekend.