Hormone May Be Source of Increased Intelligence

By Tudor Vieru on March 14th, 2011 13:19 GMT

For centuries, philosophers have been debating whether a person's intelligence is mostly dictated by nature or nurture. Now that scientists have entered the discussions, things are getting interesting. An expert now argues that a particular hormone may underlie some people's amazing intelligence.

Canadian researcher Marty Mrazik, PhD, who is based at the University of Alberta, says that the hormone testosterone may be the progenitor of superior intelligence. This is an entirely new angle in the debate, analysts comment.

According to Mrazik, having too much testosterone can have an increased level of intelligence as a side-effect. But this is just one among others, such as for example being more aggressive overall.

In the new investigation, the expert and his team demonstrated that people who are brighter than others – an IQ of 130 or higher – were usually exposed to elevated levels of testosterone before birth.

It's interesting that this prenatal exposure to a chemical has such an effect, experts say, but not unexpected. Past studies have demonstrated that negative traits such as physical and cognitive deficiencies are triggered in the womb, so why would the same not be true for positive aspects?

“There seems to be some evidence that excessive prenatal exposure to testosterone facilitates increased connections in the brain, especially in the right prefrontal cortex,” Mrazik argues, quoted by PsychCentral.

“That’s why we see some intellectually gifted people with distinct personality characteristics that you don’t see in the normal population,” he goes on to say. A paper detailing the findings was published in the latest issue of the journal Roeper Review.

“It gave us some interesting ideas that there could be more to this notion of genius being predetermined from a biological perspective than maybe people gave it credit for,” the investigator believes.

“It seemed that the bulk of evidence from new technologies (such as functional MRI scans) tell us that there’s a little bit more going on than a genetic versus environmental interaction,” Mrazik adds.

One of the implications for the new work is that some children may in fact be born with a hard-wired affinity for areas such as arts, math or science. The Canadian researcher says that more work is needed in order to figure out precisely how this trait is founded during neural development.

“It’s really hard to say what does put the brain in a pathway where it’s going to be much more precocious. The next steps in this research lay in finding out what exact stimuli causes this atypical brain development,” he concludes.
Prenatal exposure to testosterone influences intelligence scores, experts find
   Prenatal exposure to testosterone influences intelligence scores, experts find
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