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Cortex matures faster in youth with highest IQ

r. Those in the high range showed an intermediate trajectory (see below). While the cortex was thinning in all groups by the teen years, the superior group showed the highest rates of change.

"Brainy children are not cleverer solely by virtue of having more or less gray matter at any one age," explained Rapoport. "Rather, IQ is related to the dynamics of cortex maturation."The observed differences are consistent with findings from functional magnetic resonance imaging, showing that levels of activation in prefrontal areas correlates with IQ, note the researchers. They suggest that the prolonged thickening of prefrontal cortex in children with superior IQs might reflect an "extended critical period for development of high-level cognitive circuits." Although it's not known for certain what underlies the thinning phase, evidence suggests it likely reflects "use-it-or-lose-it" pruning of brain cells, neurons, and their connections as the brain matures and becomes more efficient during the teen years.

"People with very agile minds tend to have a very agile cortex," said Shaw. The NIMH researchers are following-up with a search for gene variants that might be linked to the newly discovered trajectories. However, Shaw notes mounting evidence suggesting that the effects of genes often depends on interactions with environmental events, so the determinants of intelligence will likely prove to be a very complex mix of nature and nurture.

Also participating in the study were Drs. Dede Greenstein, Liv Clasen, Rhoshel Lenroot, and Nitin Gogtay, Child Psychiatry Branch, NIMH; and Drs. Jason Lerch and Alan Evans, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University.


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Source:NIH/National Institute of Mental Health


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