WTF Fun Fact 13008 – Financial Stress Lowers IQ

Fun Fact: “A Harvard study found that our IQs can drop by 13 points when we are under financial stress. This is in part due to the amount of brain power we use to think about any financial burdens we carry, causing distraction.”
Are you surprised to hear that financial stress lowers IQ?


According to Canada’s CBC News (cited below), “People struggling to pay their bills tend to temporarily lose the equivalent of 13 IQ points, scientists found when they gave intelligence tests to shoppers at a New Jersey mall and farmers in India. The idea is that the financial stress of trying to make ends meet monopolizes thinking, making other calculations slower and more difficult, sort of like the effects of going without sleep for a night.”

Financial stress and IQ

We know IQ tests aren’t reliable indicators of innate intelligence, but they can be used to measure changes in a person’s cognitive capacity under different conditions. In other words, we don’t have to compare a person’s scores to anyone else’s, we can compare their specific scores without making judgments about their overall intelligence.

CBC described the study:

“The scientists looked at the effects of finances on the brain both in the lab and in the field. In controlled lab-like conditions, they had about 400 shoppers at Quaker Bridge Mall in central New Jersey consider certain financial scenarios and tested their brain power. Then they looked at real life in the fields of India, where farmers only get paid once a year. Before the harvest, they take out loans and pawn goods. After they sell their harvest, they are flush with cash.

[Harvard researcher Sendhil] Mullainathan and colleagues tested the same 464 farmers before and after the harvest and their IQ scores improved by 25 per cent when their wallets fattened.”

What the study doesn’t mean

The study does not mean that rich people are smarter than people who are having temporary or long-term financial difficulties. It only means they have more cognitive resources to “spend.” They can think more clearly and concentrate better on other tasks since they’re not worried about money.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Financial stress can induce drop in IQ” — CBC News

WTF Fun Fact 12934 – Axolotl Brain Regeneration

In an amazing evolutionary feat that we wish were available to many of the humans we know, it turns out the salamanders known as axolotls can grow back parts of their brains. Axolotl brain regeneration is just another one of this creature’s amazing regenerative abilities.

Axolotl body regeneration

According to IFL Science (cited below), the initial discovery is an old one:

“The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is an aquatic salamander renowned for its ability to regenerate its spinal cord, heart and limbs. These amphibians also readily make new neurons throughout their lives. In 1964, researchers observed that adult axolotls could regenerate parts of their brains, even if a large section was completely removed. But one study found that axolotl brain regeneration has a limited ability to rebuild original tissue structure.”

Regenerating the brain

At the Treutlein Lab at ETH Zurich and the Tanaka Lab at the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, researchers are trying to figure out just how complete axolotl brain regeneration is. For example, one question is what types of brain cells are they able to replace?

One of the authors of a recent study noted in IFL Science that looking at brain cells was the key to understanding the regenerative process:

“In our recently published study, we created an atlas of the cells that make up a part of the axolotl brain, shedding light on both the way it regenerates and brain evolution across species. Why look at cells? Different cell types have different functions. They are able to specialize in certain roles because they each express different genes. Understanding what types of cells are in the brain and what they do helps clarify the overall picture of how the brain works. It also allows researchers to make comparisons across evolution and try to find biological trends across species.”

Axolotl brain mapping

The research team uses a specific type of RNA sequencing to get snapshots of brain samples. More specifically, they focus on the telencephalon (the region that contains the brain’s neocortex – the seat of behavior and cognition). The cells in this area are highly diversified.

By identifying the genes that are active when cells such as neurons replicate or turn into other cell types, the researchers can get a sense of how more mature cells form in the axolotl’s brain form over time.

The real test comes when the researchers inflict an injury on part of the brain, damaging some cells, then checking in later to see if they’ve regenerated.

And they found that in about 12 weeks, most of the axolotl’s brain cells have been replaced by new ones. The cells even reformed neuronal connections.

Can axolotl brain regeneration research help humans?

Even if you don’t care about axolotls, the research is important for the future of human brain research. There are many diseases that affect cognitive capacity (not to mention the role of aging on the brain). Understanding the process by which the axolotl’s brain regenerates could someday help up apply this knowledge to humans.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Axolotls Can Regenerate Their Brains – These Adorable Salamanders Are Helping Unlock The Mysteries Of Brain Evolution And Regeneration” — IFL Science