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Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence

Date:
April 12, 2012
Source:
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Summary:
Worrying may have evolved along with intelligence as a beneficial trait, according to scientists who found that high intelligence and worry both correlate with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in the subcortical white matter of the brain. According to the researchers, this suggests that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.

Worrying may have evolved along with intelligence as a beneficial trait, according to a recent study.
Credit: Alexander Raths / Fotolia

Worrying may have evolved along with intelligence as a beneficial trait, according to a recent study by scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and other institutions. Jeremy Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate, and colleagues found that high intelligence and worry both correlate with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in the subcortical white matter of the brain. According to the researchers, this suggests that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.

"While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be," said Dr. Coplan. "In essence, worry may make people 'take no chances,' and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species."

In this study of anxiety and intelligence, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were compared with healthy volunteers to assess the relationship among intelligence quotient (IQ), worry, and subcortical white matter metabolism of choline. In a control group of normal volunteers, high IQ was associated with a lower degree of worry, but in those diagnosed with GAD, high IQ was associated with a greater degree of worry. The correlation between IQ and worry was significant in both the GAD group and the healthy control group. However, in the former, the correlation was positive and, in the latter, the correlation was negative. Eighteen healthy volunteers (eight males and 10 females) and 26 patients with GAD (12 males and 14 females) served as subjects.

Previous studies have indicated that excessive worry tends to exist both in people with higher intelligence and lower intelligence, and less so in people of moderate intelligence. It has been hypothesized that people with lower intelligence suffer more anxiety because they achieve less success in life.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jeremy D. Coplan, Sarah Hodulik, Sanjay J. Mathew, Xiangling Mao, Patrick R. Hof, Jack M. Gorman, Dikoma C. Shungu. The Relationship between Intelligence and Anxiety: An Association with Subcortical White Matter Metabolism. Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, 2012; 3 DOI: 10.3389/fnevo.2011.00008

Cite This Page:

SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412153018.htm>.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center. (2012, April 12). Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412153018.htm
SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412153018.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

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