General knowledge shows up in the brain

Thinking body of people with a lot of knowledge is more efficiently networked

There is a connection between the more efficient networking of our brain and a good general knowledge. © metamorworks / iStock
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Perfectly networked: The brain of people with great general knowledge is particularly efficiently networked, as brain scans now reveal. The more knowledge content someone has stored, the stronger the linkage between different brain areas - and vice versa. The researchers suggest that the good linkage helps the brain retrieve and integrate the complex partial information of our knowledge.

Is it possible to read the intelligence of a human by his brain? And if so - why? Some studies indicate that brain volume and anatomical structure play a role, while others see brain specific activity as an indicator of thinking. Thus, the brain could be different and more effectively networked with smarter people. However, these findings are based only on the so-called fluid intelligence - the ability to learn new things and to open relationships.

Nerve connections, represented by diffusion tensor imaging. © RUB / Erhan Genc

Crystallized intelligence

But how is that with the knowledge? Also, this already learned and memorized information is an important part of our intelligence, they are therefore also referred to as crystallized intelligence. "Although we can accurately measure the general knowledge of humans and this knowledge is very important for the individual life-course, so far we know little about the connections between general knowledge and the nature of the brain", explains Erhan Genc of the Ruhr-University Bochum.

Genc and his team have now got to the bottom of this question. For their study, they examined the brains of 324 men and women with a special form of magnetic resonance imaging, the so-called diffusion tensor imaging. It makes it possible to reconstruct the processes of nerve fibers and thus gain insight into the structural interconnectedness of the brain. Using mathematical calculations, the researchers determined the efficiency of this networking and compared it with the performance of the subjects in a general knowledge test.

Networked more efficiently

The result: "The level of general knowledge is closely linked to the structural interconnectedness of the brain, regardless of age or gender, " the researchers report. People with a lot of general knowledge also show a particularly efficient network of their brain and vice versa. The functional interconnection of the thinking organ does not only seem to promote the learning and remembering of new information, it also seems to facilitate its later retrieval. display

"We assume that individual knowledge content is scattered in the form of partial information across the entire brain, " explains Erhan Genc. "To bring together the information stored in different brain areas and successfully retrieve knowledge content, it is essential to have an efficient brain network."

Specifically, this means that, for example, to answer the question of which constant occurs in Einstein's theory of relativity, one has to connect the meaning of the term "constant" with the knowledge of relativity theory. "We hypothesize that more efficient brain structural networking contributes to better integration of partial information, leading to better results in a general knowledge test, " said the researcher. (European Journal of Personality, 2019; doi: 10.1002 / per.2217)

Source: Ruhr-University Bochum

- Nadja Podbregar