While, perhaps, slightly overhyped (no, scientists can’t tell how smart you are based on a brain scan), the new study carried out by researchers from China and the UK, set to be published in the academic journal Brain, is an interesting development in the age-old debate over the definition of intelligence.
Led by Professor Jianfeng Feng from the University of Warwick, the project aims to quantify the brain’s dynamic functions and identify how its different parts interact with each other over time, in hopes of identifying the neurobiological underpinnings of human IQ and creativity.
Using resting-state ECG and fMRI analyses on the brains of over a thousand people from around the world, study authors found that the areas of the brain associated with learning and development show high levels of variability, meaning that they change their neural connections with other parts of the brain more frequently, over a matter of minutes or even seconds.
On the other hand, the visual, auditory, and sensory-motor regions, which aren’t associated with intelligence, are more stable and less adaptable – this, according to Feng, means that the more frequently different brain regions connect with each other, the higher a person’s IQ and creativity are.
If these findings are confirmed, two fields that would benefit from them the most would be artificial intelligence (AI) and mental health: altered patterns of variability in the brain’s default network were observed in patients with schizophrenia, ASD and ADHD, which could lead researchers to their roots; while advanced artificial neural networks based on the discovery of dynamic functions inside the brain could push forward the field of AI.
“Human intelligence is a widely and hotly debated topic and only recently have advanced brain imaging techniques, such as those used in our current study, given us the opportunity to gain sufficient insights to resolve this and inform developments in artificial intelligence, as well as help establish the basis for understanding and diagnosis of debilitating human mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression,” said Feng.