Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Fancier The Cortex, The Smarter The Brain?

Date:
July 19, 2009
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Why are some people smarter than others? A new article describes how certain aspects of brain structure and function help determine how easily we learn new things, and how learning capacity contributes to individual differences in intelligence.

Why are some people smarter than others? In a new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Eduardo Mercado III from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, describes how certain aspects of brain structure and function help determine how easily we learn new things, and how learning capacity contributes to individual differences in intelligence.

Cognitive plasticity is the capacity to learn and improve cognitive skills such as solving problems and remembering events. Mercado argues that the structural basis of cognitive plasticity is the cortical module. Cortical modules are vertical columns of interconnected neuronal cells. Across different areas of the cerebral cortex, these columns vary in the number and diversity of neurons they contain. Identifying how cortical modules help us learn cognitive skills may help explain why variations in this capacity occur — that is, why people learn skills at different rates and why our ability to learn new skills changes as we age.

Studies examining a number of different species have shown that, on average, a larger cortex predicts greater intellectual capacity. The source of this correlation is unclear, but Mercado believes that a "more expansive cortex provides more space within which a larger quantity and greater diversity of cortical modules can be distributed." In other words, Mercado notes that when it comes to intellectual potential, it is not the absolute or even relative size that is important, but how many cortical modules (with various types of neurons) are available. These features of cortical organization and function determine how effectively our brain distinguishes events. This ability to differentiate events may be what enables us to learn cognitive skills.

One implication of this proposal is that experience can be as important as genetics in determining intellectual capacity. Specifically, structural changes of cortical modules generated by development and learning experiences may also contribute to individual differences in intelligence. As these networks of neurons develop over time, their diversity increases, leading to further increases in cognitive plasticity.

This research has important implications for improving educational techniques and can potentially lead to new methods for rehabilitating patients suffering from brain damage. In addition, understanding how cortical modules function may lead to new ways of increasing intelligence. However, Mercado cautions that "new technologies for increasing cognitive plasticity have ethical implications far beyond those raised by doping in sports." He concludes, "The phrase 'changing your mind' may soon take on a whole new meaning."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cognitive Plasticity and Cortical Modules. Current Directions in Psychological Science, (in press)

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "The Fancier The Cortex, The Smarter The Brain?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090717104623.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2009, July 19). The Fancier The Cortex, The Smarter The Brain?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090717104623.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "The Fancier The Cortex, The Smarter The Brain?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090717104623.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's

Common Sleeping, Anxiety Pills Linked To Alzheimer's

Newsy (Sep. 10, 2014) Researchers found commonly prescribed sleeping and anxiety pills such as Xanax and Valium could lead to an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins