The Science Coalition: Brain Injury, Intelligence & Impairment at UIUC

Researchers at the University of Illinois studied survivors of brain injury to map the architecture of intelligence, and whether damage to specific regions of the brain can be mapped to specific post-injury impairments, including measurements of working memory, and visual and spacial reasoning. [View Video]

NHPR: Breaking Down the Brain

Scientists at the University of Illinois report that they have mapped the physical architecture of the brain with accuracy never before achieved. Their study, published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology is the largest, most comprehensive analysis so far of the brain structures vital to general intelligence –which depends on a remarkably circumscribed neural system – and to specific cognitive functions, like memory, self-control and recognizing speech.

Get it?

We didn’t, so we asked neurology professor and lead author Dr. Aron Barbey to walk us through the study. [Full Article]

Psychology Today: Brain Injury Study Points to Integrative Nature of Intelligence

Intelligence is all about neural teamwork.

One of the ongoing challenges in neuroscience is to do equal justice to both functional localization and functional integration in the brain. We know the brain is not equipotential, not every part can do everything, but we also know that individual brain regions rarely do much of interest on their own, the popularity of stories touting the discovery of “the brain region for X” notwithstanding. And yet the field tends too often to break into warring camps, with each side rallying around one or the other of these poles, each hoping to show that localization (no! integration!) is “the” fundamental fact of the brain. [Full Article]

healthday

HealthDay News: Researchers Map Brain Regions Linked to Intelligence

Study of head injury patients helps identify regions involved in thinking abilities

The physical architecture of intelligence in the brain has been mapped by scientists who used brain injury patients to conduct their research.

The findings provide new insight about the specific brain structures involved in general intelligence and specific skills such as memory and the ability to understand words.

The study included 182 Vietnam War veterans who had highly localized brain damage caused by penetrating head wounds. [Full Article]

Illinois News Bureau: Researchers use brain-injury data to map intelligence in the brain

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.

In a video, Aron Barbey discusses his work linking specific brain injuries, seen here in a brain scan, to impairment on particular cognitive functions. Their study, published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, is unique in that it enlisted an extraordinary pool of volunteer participants: 182 Vietnam veterans with highly localized brain damage from penetrating head injuries. [Full Article]

PNAS: Cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief

Kapogiannis D, Barbey AK, Su M, Zamboni G, Krueger F, Grafman J. 2009. Cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 106, 4876-4881. [PDF]

New Scientist: Did Evolution Allow Religion?

Once we had evolved the necessary brain architecture, we could “do” religion, brain scans indicate.

The research shows that, to interpret a god’s intentions and feelings, we rely mainly on the same recently evolved brain regions that divine the feelings and intentions of other people.

“We’re interested to find where in the brain belief systems are represented, particularly those that appear uniquely human,” says lead researcher, Jordan Grafman of the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland.

The researchers found that such beliefs “light up” the areas of our brain which have evolved most recently, such as those involved in imagination, memory and “theory of mind” — the recognition that other people and living things can have their own thoughts and intentions.

“They don’t tell us about the existence of a higher order power like God,” says Grafman. “They only address how the mind and brain work in tandem to allow us to have belief systems that guide our everyday actions.” [Full Article]

Full Article

Brain researchers trying to understand the neural basis of religious belief have concluded that the brain has no special region or network for this task. Rather, it depends on general networks that exist for other purposes.

A team led by Dr. Jordan Grafman of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke questioned volunteers about their religious beliefs while monitoring the blood flow in their brains with a scanning machine. Extra blood flow is assumed to reflect the activity of neurons in a specific region of the brain. [Full Article]

NPR: To The Brain, God Is Just Another Guy

Brain scans of participants thinking about God and religion.Brain scans of participants thinking about God show activation in the same part of the brain where people empathize with others. One such brain region, called the precuneus (the upper green dot), is also associated with imagination, balancing complex tasks and self-consciousness.

The human brain, it appears, responds to God as if he were just another person, according to a team at the National Institutes of Health.

A study of 40 people — some religious, some nonreligious — found that phrases such as “I believe God is with me throughout the day and watches over me” lit up the same areas of the brain we use to decipher the emotions and intentions of other people.

“There was no difference,” says Jordan Grafman, who runs the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Grafman says the finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that there is no special circuitry in the brain that deals with religious belief. It also suggests that religion developed as the human brain evolved its capacity for complex social interactions. [Full Article and Audio]