Intelligence can change over the course of a lifetime

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Intelligence quotient of children fluctuates in the course of life

So far, intelligence has been considered a factor that - in contrast to the level of education - has changed little or not at all over the years. But researchers from University College in London now report in the current issue of the journal "Nature" that the intelligence quotient (IQ) can still change significantly during teenage years - for the positive but also for the negative.

Her research has shown that the intelligence of children does not remain constant over the years, but can develop differently up to the teenage years, study author Cathy Price explained. The "tendency to assess children relatively early in life and determine their educational path" could therefore be a fundamentally wrong approach, Price continues.

Clear jumps in IQ found The British researchers from the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at the University College of London had examined the intelligence of 33 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16 and repeated this investigation after four years. In addition to a normal intelligence test, brain examinations were also carried out using magnetic resonance imaging (magnetic resonance imaging, MRI). The researchers led by Cathy Price noticed that the children in some cases showed clear jumps in IQ. Some have apparently increased their IQ significantly, while other previously high-performing children have lost their potential, the scientists explained. The previous assumption that the IQ does not change later in life has been refuted with the current results. In the intelligence tests, the researchers analyzed general knowledge, language skills and memory as well as skills such as finding missing picture elements or solving puzzles.

IQ develops parallel to the gray matter of the brain. In the first study, the intelligence ratios of the 33 study participants were between 77 and 135, in the second study, the test subjects achieved values ​​between 87 and 143, according to the researchers. In particular, some adolescents improved their result in the second test by up to 20 points, while others showed a comparable drop in IQ, write Cathy Price and colleagues. With regard to the individual areas tested, the second test showed some significant deviations from the first test. The MRI images showed that the gray matter, which consists largely of nerve cells, had changed in parallel with the development of IQ, the researchers report. For example, an increase in verbal IQ was accompanied by an increase in the density of gray matter in the left motor cerebral cortex. This area is activated when speaking, the British scientists explain. If the researchers recorded an increase in non-verbal IQ (puzzle and image search skills), an increase in the density of the gray matter in the brain was observed in parallel, according to Cathy Price and colleagues. Here too there is a logical connection, since the brain region is associated with hand movements and spatial thinking.

The brain can be shaped lifelong Why the intelligence quotient changed in some subjects later in life, but remained constant in others, has so far not been able to clarify clearly. For example, it is possible that some children are early or late developers, explained Cathy Price. But training and skills development may also play a role. According to the experts, the previous assumption that intelligence does not change much in life has to be rejected in view of the current results. Rather, there is reason to believe that the brain remains malleable throughout life and can adapt to new challenges, the British scientists explained. (fp)

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