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NYT: Smart brains develop differently, scans show

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Keep skeptical, study could be shown wrong. But the idea of keeping track of anatomical development of brain during childhood and teens is interesting and they claim to have found differences in the pattern of growth of a certain layer of cells.


Sample exerpt:


Scans Show Different Growth for Intelligent Brains



The brains of highly intelligent children develop in a different pattern from those with more average abilities, researchers have found after analyzing a series of imaging scans collected over 17 years.


The discovery, some experts expect, will help scientists understand intelligence in terms of the genes that foster it and the childhood experiences that can promote it.


"This is the first time that anyone has shown that the brain grows differently in extremely intelligent children," said Paul M. Thompson, a brain-imaging expert at the University of California, Los Angeles.


The finding is based on 307 children in Bethesda, Md., an affluent suburb of Washington. Starting in 1989, they were given regular brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging, a project initiated by Dr. Judith Rapoport of the National Institute of Mental Health.


This set of scans has been analyzed by Philip Shaw, Dr. Jay Giedd and others at the institute and at McGill University in Montreal. They looked at changes in the thickness of the cerebral cortex, the thin sheet of neurons that clads the outer surface of the brain and is the seat of many higher mental processes.


The general pattern of maturation, they report in Nature today, is that the cortex grows thicker as the child ages and then thins out. The cause of the changes is unknown, because the imaging process cannot see down to the level of individual neurons.


But basically the brain seems to be rewiring itself as it matures, with the thinning of the cortex reflecting a pruning of redundant connections.


The analysis was started to check out a finding by Dr. Thompson: that parts of the frontal lobe of the cortex are larger in people with high I.Q.'s. Looking at highly intelligent 7-year-olds, the researchers said they were surprised to find that the cortex was thinner than in a comparison group of children of average intelligence.


It was only in following the scans as the children grew older that the dynamism of the developing brain became evident. The researchers found that average children (I.Q. scores 83 to 108) reached a peak of cortical thickness at age 7 or 8. Highly intelligent children (121 to 149 in I.Q.) reached a peak thickness much later, at 13, followed by a more dynamic pruning process....

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Couldn't this have been submitted as news?



Are you in the news team? If so you are welcome to make a news item out of it herpguy!


My feeling (and this is just a personal feeling) that even though a reputable journalist Nicolas Wade reported it in a reputable newspaper the NYT that it still is a bit iffy as news.


What if the study is attacked? What if a case is made that there was some flaw in the methodology? It could be controversial and get mixed up with the nature-nurture thing. I am inclined to want to wait to hear some more about it. Or some other study that confirms.


I wonder if the people who were evaluating the brainscans KNEW when they were looking at developmental record of an especially bright kid. Probably not they would not be so clumsy, would have used some "blind"

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It would be interesting to see how/if this trend continues into higher IQ groups


this result (relating ONE aspect of brain anatomy/development to IQ) might just be the tip of the ice, if it is true.


this is just a story about how fast a cortical layer of cells thickens AFAIK


there could be OTHER aspects of brain anatomical development that one could see with an MRI that they might discover relate to IQ


so it might not all depend on this one thing, the thickening and thinning of that one layer during childhood and early adol.


So many questions!


You can think of them as well as I, Bascule. Like, does the persons experience influence the rate of thickening and the year it reaches max? Is there a genetic handle on this? and so on.


Hope the study is confirmed---publication in Nature magazine is a good sign.

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My feeling (and this is just a personal feeling) that even though a reputable journalist Nicolas Wade reported it in a reputable newspaper the NYT that it still is a bit iffy as news.


It was actually in the Union Tribune here in SD, CA, on the same day as this, I believe.

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