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A Neural Basis for General Intelligence

Science  21 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5478, pp. 457-460
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5478.457

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Abstract

Universal positive correlations between different cognitive tests motivate the concept of “general intelligence” or Spearman'sg. Here the neural basis for g is investigated by means of positron emission tomography. Spatial, verbal, and perceptuo-motor tasks with high-g involvement are compared with matched low-g control tasks. In contrast to the common view that g reflects a broad sample of major cognitive functions, high-g tasks do not show diffuse recruitment of multiple brain regions. Instead they are associated with selective recruitment of lateral frontal cortex in one or both hemispheres. Despite very different task content in the three high-g–low-g contrasts, lateral frontal recruitment is markedly similar in each case. Many previous experiments have shown these same frontal regions to be recruited by a broad range of different cognitive demands. The results suggest that “general intelligence” derives from a specific frontal system important in the control of diverse forms of behavior.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: john.duncan{at}mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk

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