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.
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.