Researchers at New York University Langone Health have demonstrated brain entropy and human intelligence is closely linked. Brain entropy, determined using fMRI scans, correlates closely with the mental capacity of patients, with high entropy in the brain corresponding to a high IQ.
The research shows that fMRI scans could be of use in assessing brain function in patients that have difficulty processing information, such as those suffering from severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or for assessing the severity of autism.
Brain entropy is currently a major focus for researchers studying human intelligence. Brain entropy is the variety of nerve circuits in the brain that are used to process information from the senses and interpret an individual’s environment.
Functional MRI (fMRI) scans are used to track blood flow in the brain. An increase in blood flow has been linked to neuronal activation. The NYU Langone Health researchers used fMRI scans to accurately determine the level of brain entropy in patients.
For the study, the researchers used fMRI scans of 892 male and female patients in the US who had taken part in the Harvard-based Brain Genomics Superstruct study over the past 10 years. An analysis of hundreds of fMRI images revealed the number of electrically active brain cells available to interact with each other in different parts of the brain, and the number of possible combinations of those brain cells.
Using mathematical models, the researchers were able to obtain a reliable entropy score for each patient based on how nerve cell combinations in one image were able to predict those in the next image, taken just milliseconds later.
To determine whether entropy scores could be used to determine intelligence, the researchers compared the entropy scores with the results of two standard IQ tests – the Shipley-Hartford and Wechsler tests.
The researchers found that patients that scored highly on the Shipley-Hartford test – which assesses verbal skills – had higher entropy scores for the left inferior temporal lobe: An area of the brain involved with learning speech. The results from the Wechsler tests, which assesses problem-solving abilities, showed that individuals with above average scores had higher entropy scores in the bilateral anterior frontal lobes: The part of the brain associated with organization, planning, and emotional control.
This is the first time that solid evidence has been obtained linking brain entropy with intelligence.
The research is detailed in the paper – Brain entropy and human intelligence: A resting-state fMRI study – was recently published in the journal PLoS ONE.