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Intelligence Map Made From Brain Injury Data 102

An anonymous reader writes with this news out of the University of Illinois: "Scientists report that they have mapped the physical architecture of intelligence in the brain. Theirs is one of the largest and most comprehensive analyses so far of the brain structures vital to general intelligence and to specific aspects of intellectual functioning, such as verbal comprehension and working memory. Their study, published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology (abstract), is unique in that it enlisted an extraordinary pool of volunteer participants: 182 Vietnam veterans with highly localized brain damage from penetrating head injuries. ... The researchers took CT scans of the participants’ brains and administered an extensive battery of cognitive tests. They pooled the CT data to produce a collective map of the cortex, which they divided into more than 3,000 three-dimensional units called voxels. By analyzing multiple patients with damage to a particular voxel or cluster of voxels and comparing their cognitive abilities with those of patients in whom the same structures were intact, the researchers were able to identify brain regions essential to specific cognitive functions, and those structures that contribute significantly to intelligence."
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Intelligence Map Made From Brain Injury Data

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  • by jmerlin ( 1010641 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @03:25PM (#39635545)
    I believe mine is currently functioning as intended.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @03:30PM (#39635607)

    This is one of those fine moments when I wish scientific journals posted online weren't pay-walled. Kinda kills the dissemination of knowledge to the masses when one has to pay $32 to view a single article once, and makes it economically infeasable for an individual to read and verify the information they hear from primary sources.

    • I'm sure they'll port it to Linux soon, though.

    • You can probably get some or all of the papers on loan at libraries... My university library does this for journals to which I do have access through my university account. I'm sure public libraries can do it also.
      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        My public library can barely afford to keep the doors open even with severely reduced operating hours and staff. They're certainly not shelling out multi-thousands per year for scientific journal access.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:41PM (#39636375) Journal

      While journal access is costly, most researchers post PDF reprints of their papers on their lab website. Google Scholar is pretty good at finding them. Here [decisionne...ncelab.org] is the PDF for this article. I expect this is not paywalled, but since I'm at an academic institution I can't be sure.

      • It's open. Thanks!

        • not only is it open... the fools haven't prevented directory crawling either... there's scads of pdfs in that directory... but then again, there's an actual index of them all with some clues of their contents here [decisionne...ncelab.org]
          • No surprise there, the only reason you would want to squish directory listing is if you had "public" documents alongside "private" or other things you wouldn't want people to see. If all you have is a public listing of documents, leaving indexing turned on is a good thing.

    • by pxc ( 938367 )

      I found this PDF [decisionne...ncelab.org] through Google Scholar. Is it accessible to you?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Common sense should tell you that anything you pay will be donated to those 182 Vietnam veterans.

    • Workaround suggestions miss the point. Anonymous Coward should be able to check the primary sources of our research. We have a firewall between our minds and our culture's information. AC BTW I watched the 2-minute video, it's a great triumph of voxel mapping, but not a great advance in knowledge. Skip it.

      .sig (my views are better than your views)

    • by lennier ( 44736 )

      Kinda kills the dissemination of knowledge to the masses when one has to pay $32 to view a single article once

      Knowledge? To the masses? But then they'll know things!

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Screw primary sources, I want someone to process it and give me a big glowey map of the brain, with all the functions listed. I had a stroke and may or may not have damaged the front portions of the right side. But nobody can tell me what I may have lost, or what could be broken. What I could see from the story indicates most of the good stuff was on the left side, so yay, I may be brain damaged in a way that isn't too noticeable.
  • Voxel (Score:5, Informative)

    by proslack ( 797189 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @03:34PM (#39635651) Journal
    A voxel is a 3D (volumetric) pixel.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by stevegee58 ( 1179505 )
      Not to be confused with Vauxhall
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Not to be confused with a VAX haul, which takes up more garage space than a Vauxhall, which is only good for transporting the VAX haul.

    • Re:Voxel (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @05:10PM (#39636729)

      I don't need some city slicker with a name like "proslack" telling me what a goddman Voxel is. I did two tours of duty in Command & Conquer.. I saw a lot in my time.

  • OK... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @03:36PM (#39635679)

    There's the map of The Brain; is anyone working on a map of Pinky?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's the map of The Brain; is anyone working on a map of Pinky?

      Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?

      • Re:OK... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:19PM (#39636139)
        Uh, I think so, but how do we get Minecraft players inside someone's head to fix their voxels?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?

        I think so, Brain, but if we have nothing to fear but fear itself, why does Elanore Roosevelt wear that spooky mask?

    • There's the map of The Brain; is anyone working on a map of Pinky?

      I don't know, it's probably tricky to map out a peanut in any great detail.

  • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <glandauer@charter.net> on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @03:40PM (#39635737) Homepage

    While this is undoubtedly an important study, their findings are going to have to be replicated somehow in a larger, more diverse set of subjects. They're looking at just 182 people and, while it's not mentioned explicitly in the article, it appears they're all men. We know from other studies that there are anatomical differences in men's brains compared to women's brains, and even between left handed and right handed men. It would be very interesting to see, for example, a FMRI study to see if the structures play the same role in all patients.

    • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @03:52PM (#39635845)

      It's interesting work, but I think Barbey would agree with you that it's just a beginning. Some of the same questions came up in the question and answer section of a talk by him I went to a couple weeks ago.

      He just recently got here to the U of Illinois and is the head of a new neuroscience laboratory dealing with decision making, executive function and reasoning.

      http://www.decisionneurosciencelab.org/ [decisionne...ncelab.org]

      They have some interesting ideas for looking at the role of self deception in how we reason that hopefully will lead to some quite interesting work.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        I wonder if consciousness is what happens when we recursively simulate ourselves :).

        Creating a model of the world allows organisms to predict what will happen and hopefully make better decisions than mere guessing. When the world includes others like you, predicting others and yourself becomes useful too.
      • They have some interesting ideas for looking at the role of self deception in how we reason that hopefully will lead to some quite interesting work.

        I'd dearly love to read about that. I've always considered myself very poor at self-deception (however, I also personally feel it is a strength).

        I find most other people seem to be able to say things like, "I believe in God" and when you dig a little deeper it ends up being, "I believe in God because it'd really be horrible if there wasn't one". I agree that it'd be much nicer if there was an all powerful all loving deity; but no matter how much I am sure I'd be happier to believe it, I simply don't in th

        • "I've always considered myself very poor at self-deception"

          So you think!

          • "I've always considered myself very poor at self-deception"

            So you think!

            Indeed - I was mindful in my post not to say that I "am" worse at self-deception, merely that I consider myself so. It could be that I am actually very good at deceiving myself and have done so in such a way that I think I'm not. However based on my observations of others, I don't think that's the case - I just can't prove it to myself one way or the other definitively (I also can't really prove the existence of anything, but that's not really a very sensible way to live; so I tend to ignore those sorts o

        • "I am not deceiving myself about anything"

    • My informed opinion: --- the researchers were presenting, primarily, a MAPPING SYSTEM ("An integrative architecture for general intelligence mapping.") There are many many areas of intelligence that were not represented within this limited group, composed of verbal deficit injuries. There's no big news here, there's just a promising system for conducting future research on intelligence.
    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      While this is undoubtedly an important study, their findings are going to have to be replicated somehow in a larger, more diverse set of subjects.

      Okay. What's the most scientifically-valid way to measure "intelligence" independently? As far as I know, there's no one accepted standard above all else. I could be wrong, of course, and would love to see what the standard is so I can take it and be depressed about how dumb I may or may not be.

    • I can't help it: [prefrontal.org]

      http://prefrontal.org/files/posters/Bennett-Salmon-2009.pdf [prefrontal.org]

      When it comes to fMRI studies, I always remember the story of a dead salmon in an fMRI scanner, that was shown a series of photographs depicting human individuals in social situations. The salmon was asked to determine what emotion the individual in the photo must have been experiencing.

      Of course, it was a resounding success! And now SCIENCE knows where in the brain of a dead salmon, the mental process to evaluate human emotions oc

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Read more critically. The salmon paper was pointing out that if you do fMRI poorly, with half assed stats, you will get poor results. It is a tongue in cheek warning to neuroscientists who think that just because you can do fMRI analysis with the push of a button, you should.

        fMRI, done properly by someone knows what they're doing, is a difficult, but reliable technique.

        • Just because I always remember the story doesn't mean I discard all fMRI studies outright. But I still think you should be on your toes.

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            You should never be ironic about a technical scientific issue in a public forum, at least not without a disclaimer at the end. You left off the disclaimer. I added it for you.

  • by hey ( 83763 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @03:48PM (#39635813) Journal

    brain mapping.

  • Maybe phrenology was onto something after all!
  • Let's see if they can explain this guy [spiegel.de].
  • Reference? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Terwin ( 412356 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @03:59PM (#39635901)

    TFA did not specify any pre-injury base-line for intelligence.
    Did they all take intelligence tests before enlisting?
    Seems unlikely.
    Did they have any other way to check cognitive function prior to the injury so they had some sort of a useful base-line?

    Is it possible that a majority of the differences, especially in general intelligence, were less related to the injuries and more related to nature/nurture?

    How about compensation?
    Humans are great at adapting.
    Did they check their results with people who had more recent injuries?

    Might be a good starting point, but it sounds like there is a lot that could affect the things they were testing for that were not isolated or otherwise accounted for.

    • TFA did not specify any pre-injury base-line for intelligence. Did they all take intelligence tests before enlisting? Seems unlikely. ...

      I was in the just after Vietman era generation. I remember taking some sort of armed forces aptitude test in High School. This was when the draft was still an issue, so for Vietnam vets, it's entirely possible that they all took the same test before being drafted, or shortly thereafter.

    • They were all soldiers so you might have more baseline data than you would for a member of the general population. But the specific questions you are answering are really not germane to the study. This is a first, low resolution look at general areas involved in fairly general mental processes. It hasn't been clear that there were specific regions of the brain involved in specific higher process functions.

      Yes, there are likely to be differences between men and woman, Caucasians and Asians, old and young.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:00PM (#39635925)

    This study seems to be making the assumption that we all put the same brain functions in precisely the same places. But each individual has different intellectual strengths, weaknesses, and talents. Although I wouldn't say they shouldn't do this study, I fail to see how it would give us more than the coarsest understanding, biased based on the individual personalities of those tested.

    • This coarse understanding of the brain is a step-up from the object-level understanding we have know. From there, we can refine the model in gradual steps.

      It's definitely a study with flaws, but it's also a study that advances the current state of the art.

      Patience, grass hopper. The neural interfaces to allow for Total Recall to become reality are still a few coarse and flawed studies away.

    • AFAIK, most people will lose the same function if they lose the same part of their brain. I'd wager that anyone who didn't had already lost function in that part of their brain in their childhood, and their brain compensated.

      Still, it's a crap shoot, but more data is better than none. If you have a brain tumor, and the surgeon has to choose to sacrifice one part of your brain to remove the tumor, this data helps to guide that choice.
    • People also have different physical strengths and weaknesses, but we still have the same muscles in the same areas. It would be reasonable to assume the brain is the same way until we have evidence that suggests otherwise.

  • They took just 182 people, all of similar age, all of similar education, all gone through military training, all with penetrating head wounds and trauma to their brain, and used that to "map the brain". Sounds solid.
  • 182 subjects . And they can claim to have achieved the required statistical power to assert statistical significance over .. what population exactly?

    I didn't say the study wasn't worthy or interesting.. I am just saying with 182 subjects, the strong claim presented to me - We've mapped intelligence!) in the title of this article isn't warranted.

    Who submits these things. Helper undergrads who want to see the study and their name in the "thanks to" section made famous?

    Someone call quality control...

  • "Mapping" intelligence is like herding cats. The problem is that a brain is a swarm of neurons, meaning that its function is the sum of all of its parts. Sure some brain areas are "mappable", because they connect to specific peripheral organs, but otherwise intelligence as a function is unmappable. That is why a location for memory has not been found. In effect, the more cerebral matter is surgically removed, the deeper the memory loss is.
  • Even the humble slime mould (Physarum polycephalum) can navigate mazes to find a food source, using the most optimal (least expenditure of energy) path. Slime moulds have been used to create maps of major metropolitan transportation systems (such as the Tokyo subway system). Likewise, Darwin's famous experiments with earthworms revealed that earthworms use what the environment affords them in order to strengthen their burrows. They accomplish this despite lacking a central nervous system and any of the "big

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Congratulations, you just bumped into one of the major issues in Cognitive Science. There is no agreed upon definition of the word "intelligence." You, like many others before, have decided that intelligence is something that you can determine based upon observed physical behaviour. If you were to spend some time to consider how you might convince others that some machine (for example) is intelligent through it's behaviour, you will come to see why that is a weak definition. By your definition, there ar

  • 3000 voxels too beaucoup!
  • I recently had a small stroke on the left side of my brain. The only impact I can tell is some very slight speech problems, which are almost gone just a few weeks later. It would be neat to compare my MRI to the areas mapped out by this to see if I can notice any losses. Too bad my neurologist is not interested in talking more than spending five minutes telling me to eat better and take aspirin and a statin from now on.

  • There is no way in hell your going to get me to do all that stuff to my brain just to get smarter. On the other hand, I'm still pretty young. If I get started now I can take it slow.
  • The researchers also found that brain regions for planning, self-control and other aspects of executive function overlap to a significant extent with regions vital to general intelligence. The study provides new evidence that intelligence relies not on one brain region or even the brain as a whole, Barbey said, but involves specific brain areas working together in a coordinated fashion.

    So.... are trolls actually missing functional areas, or are they just cognitively uncoordinated?

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