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The Neural Architecture of General Knowledge (A03)

28. July 2019

The Press Department of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum reports on their news portal: Cognitive performance varies greatly between individuals and is significantly influenced by the structural and functional properties of the brain. In the past, neuroscientific research focused on fluid intelligence, neglecting its equally important counterpart, crystallized intelligence.

Crystallized intelligence is defined as the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills appreciated by one’s own culture. The accumulation of crystallised intelligence is controlled by information storage capacities and is probably reflected in the general knowledge of the individual. Despite the important role that general knowledge plays in everyday life, its neuronal basis remains largely unknown.

In a large sample of 324 healthy individuals, researchers including Erhan Genç (Project Leader A03) and Onur Güntürkün (Project Leader A01, F01, Z, Ö) used standard magnetic resonance imaging together with functional magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensorics to investigate different estimates of brain volume and connectivity of the brain network and to evaluate their predictive power in terms of general knowledge and fluid intelligence. The results show that an individual’s level of general knowledge is linked to the structural interconnectedness of the brain network, which goes beyond any confusing effects by age or gender.

In addition, they found that fluid intelligence can best be predicted by cortex volume in male subjects and functional network binding in female subjects. Taken together, these results may indicate different neuronal architectures for information storage and processing.