WTF Fun Fact 13400 – Brain Processing Speed and Intelligence

Scientists have discovered something interesting about brain processing speed and intelligence. It turns out our decision-making abilities are not necessarily linked to intelligence.

A study by researchers from BIH and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin found that individuals who performed better on intelligence tests were faster at solving simple problems but required more time for difficult tasks compared to those with lower scores.

How is brain processing speed related to intelligence?

In the popular imagination, thinking fast is usually associated with intelligence. There are studies that support this idea, but they might not have been considering a wide enough range of measures.

Personalized brain simulations revealed that brains with reduced synchronization between different regions tended to make hasty decisions. Meanwhile, higher-scoring participants took longer to solve complex tasks and made fewer mistakes. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, shed light on the intricate workings of the human brain.

How did they perform the research?

Led by Professor Dr. Petra Ritter, director of the brain simulation section at the Berlin Institute of Health and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the researchers employed computer simulations to understand decision-making processes and their variations among individuals. They used digital data from brain examinations, such as magnetic resonance imaging, and mathematical models based on theoretical knowledge of biological processes, to develop “personalized brain models” that mirrored individual participants’ brain activity.

For the study, the researchers collaborated with the Human Connectome Project, which collects data on nerve connections in the human brain. The project provided data from 650 participants who had undergone cognitive tests and obtained IQ scores.

The results of brain processing speed research

The scientists discovered that the brains in both the simulations and real individuals exhibited different behaviors based on their levels of synchronization. Slower brains exhibited higher functional connectivity. This allowed neural circuits in the frontal lobe to delay decisions longer than in less coordinated brains. As a result of the temporal coordination, brains were able to gather more information before reaching a conclusion.

The study also revealed that reduced functional connectivity caused some brains to jump to hasty decisions instead of waiting for upstream brain regions to complete the necessary processing steps. The synchronization of brain regions, forming functional networks, influenced working memory and the ability to hold off on decisions for a longer time. Complex problems required holding information in working memory while searching for alternative solutions, leading to better results.

The research provides valuable insights into the balance between excitation and inhibition in the brain’s decision-making processes and its impact on working memory.

The implications

These findings have implications beyond understanding human intelligence. The improved simulation technology used in the study can potentially aid in personalized treatment planning for patients with neurodegenerative diseases like dementia or Parkinson’s. Computer simulations could help doctors estimate the most suitable interventions, medications, or brain stimulation techniques for individual patients, taking into account the likely efficacy and side effects of each approach.

By uncovering the complexities of brain function and decision-making, this research contributes to our knowledge of the human mind and may open new avenues for personalized medicine and treatment strategies in the future.

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Source: “Intelligent brains take longer to solve difficult problems” — Berlin Institute of Health

WTF Fun Fact 13031 – A Bear Sense of Beauty

Is there a bear sense of beauty? How do we explain wild bears who are seen at scenic spots staring off into the mountains, trees, forests, and river vistas? We may never understand this behavior. But if we use our own behavior as a reference point (which humans so often do), it may be that bears – just like us – enjoy a really good view.

Do bears have a sense of beauty?

Let’s start with one thing we do know – bears are smart. Their brains are difficult for us to understand because they’re not organized in a familiar way, but their size and complexity indicate that bears have a capacity for intelligence that was previously unknown to most humans.

Now, not every bear will share the same behavior, especially when it comes to something subjective, like beauty. But the fact that some bears seem to be able to scout out a good view for the day is fascinating. Some also build their dens near scenic points (and not just the ones that humans and their picnic baskets frequent). You know what they say about real estate – location, location, location.

So, does a bear staring into the beauty of the mountains mean there’s a bear sense of beauty though?

Sharing beauty with bears

The staring behavior was first noticed by people studying bears in the wild. After all, a bear showing up at a scenic parking lot in the Smokies is not going to arouse the same level of interest – just terror.

Canadian artist Maureen Enns and rancher Charles Russell have long been advocates of living alongside bears. They’ve also discussed the penchant for beauty they’ve witnessed from the creatures. They aren’t scientists, but they have gotten up close and personal with grizzlies and found them to be quite serene when they’re not threatened. Enns was one of the first people to publicly suggest that bears appreciate beauty. This was after seeing them gaze at a stunning view one day.

Since then, others have remarked on similar behavior. But investigating the bear’s sense of beauty doesn’t appear to be on any major research agendas right now.

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Source: “Sharing the wild with bears” – LA Times

WTF Fun Fact 12793 – Angry People Overestimate Their Intelligence

Just because things like swearing are common among intelligent people doesn’t mean that extends to actual anger. In fact, angry people tend to overestimate their intelligence.

Anger and intelligence

Some negative emotions are more common among intelligent people, but anger seems to make folks a bit overconfident. A study showed that those who are quick to anger tend to think they’re smart (and the rest of the world needs to catch up).

The study

According to LiveScience (cited below): “To test this, the researchers surveyed more than 520 undergraduate students attending schools in Warsaw. The students answered survey questions to gauge how easily and how often they get angry. Then, the students took a survey to assess their own intelligence before taking an objective intelligence test.”

People in the study who were quick to anger had a higher opinion of their own cognitive abilities. Those who were more neurotic, on the other hand (who reacted to events with anxiety and distress), tended to see themselves as less intelligent.

In the end, it seems to come down to narcissism. Ill-tempered people tended to be more narcissistic and therefore think they’re smart. Of course, there’s no real, true test of intelligence, so we don’t know if that’s true or not; we just know that they seem to think they’re the real deal when it comes to brains.

Perceived intelligence

The study looked at anger as an overall personality trait, asking people to judge their own general tendencies towards anger. It didn’t try to test how angry they got in the moment.

It’s also important to note that “although the researchers found an association between the two traits, it’s unclear if there’s a cause and effect relationship between anger and overestimating intelligence. More research is needed to explore that link.”

The study was published in the journal Intelligence.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Angry People Think They’re Smarter Than They Are” — Live Science