(July 27, 2015) One of the big questions intelligence researchers grapple with is just how differences in intelligence are reflected in the human brain. Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in studying further details relating to suspected functional differences in the brains of intelligent people.
The brains of more intelligent people are capable of solving tasks more efficiently, which is why these people have superior cognitive faculties, or as Elsbeth Stern, Professor for Research on Learning and Instruction at ETH Zurich, puts it: “when a more and a less intelligent person are given the same task, the more intelligent person requires less cortical activation to solve the task.” Scientists refer to this as the neural efficiency hypothesis, although it ceased being a hypothesis quite some time ago and is now accepted by experts as an undisputed fact, with ample evidence to support it.
While working on her doctoral thesis in Stern's work group, Daniela Nussbaumer also found evidence of this effect for the first time in a group of people possessing above-average intelligence for tasks involving what is referred to as working memory. “We measured the electrical activity in the brains of university students, enabling us to identify differences in brain activity between people with slightly above-average and considerably above-average IQs,” explained Nussbaumer. Past studies conducted to identify the effect of neural efficiency have generally used groups of people that exhibit extreme variations in intelligence.