New research is a paradigm shift in the study of cognitive abilities

The intelligence quotient (IQ) of a person is correlated with the thickness of the cerebral cortex, concluded a new investigation which was conducted at the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF). As explained by the researcher at the Language Acquisition and Perception office of the Department of Information Technology and Communications (DTIC ) at UPF, Miguel Burgaleta, the cerebral cortex is a thin layer of nerve cells, a few millimeters thick, which is involved in cognitive functions such as perception, language, memory or consciousness.

The study, which analyzed 188 children and adolescents over two years with the intervention of Spanish, British, Americans and Canadian researchers, and whose result was published on the journal NeuroImage, indicates that the rate of change of the thickness of the cerebral cortex “is relevant.”

According to Burgaleta, research shows “a paradigm shift in the study of cognitive abilities and helps to understand the dynamic aspect of the human brain and therefore the cognitive abilities of humans.” The cerebral cortex is reduced in size between the ages of five or six years as part of the normal development process, but the significance of these changes are not well established.

In their work, researchers have studied a group of children and adolescents through MRIs and discovered the relationship between changes in cerebral cortical thickness and changes in the development of their IQ. One of the main results of the paper is that a significant reduction in the cerebral cortex correlates with a significant reduction in IQ.

“Our research indicates that these fluctuations in IQ also hide genuine changes in intelligence, and that correlates with changes in brain structure, a result that can not be found if the fluctuations were spurious or the result of measurement was erroneous, as seen earlier,” said Burgaleta. According to him, “this has serious implications for the social use of IQ.”

For example, Burgaleta cites the use of IQ scores as a criterion for admission or diagnosis. Though he doesn’t negate its predictive power, which has been replicated many times, in terms of academics or work performance. The results of this study may have “comprehensive” implications in the educational field and in the judiciary, for example in situations where the IQ is involved in establishing the a final verdict.

“In the United States, people with an IQ below 70 are not eligible for the death penalty,” say the authors of the research, which also include teachers from the Autonomous University of Madrid and researchers from the CIEN Foundation, along with scientists from universities and hospitals in the UK, USA and Canada.

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