Shaw P, Greenstein D, Lerch J, Clasen L, Lenroot R, Gogtay N et al. Intellectual ability and cortical development in children and adolescents. Nature 440: 676-679

Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20182, USA.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 04/2006; 440(7084):676-9. DOI: 10.1038/nature04513
Source: PubMed


Children who are adept at any one of the three academic 'R's (reading, writing and arithmetic) tend to be good at the others, and grow into adults who are similarly skilled at diverse intellectually demanding activities. Determining the neuroanatomical correlates of this relatively stable individual trait of general intelligence has proved difficult, particularly in the rapidly developing brains of children and adolescents. Here we demonstrate that the trajectory of change in the thickness of the cerebral cortex, rather than cortical thickness itself, is most closely related to level of intelligence. Using a longitudinal design, we find a marked developmental shift from a predominantly negative correlation between intelligence and cortical thickness in early childhood to a positive correlation in late childhood and beyond. Additionally, level of intelligence is associated with the trajectory of cortical development, primarily in frontal regions implicated in the maturation of intelligent activity. More intelligent children demonstrate a particularly plastic cortex, with an initial accelerated and prolonged phase of cortical increase, which yields to equally vigorous cortical thinning by early adolescence. This study indicates that the neuroanatomical expression of intelligence in children is dynamic.

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    • "However, the association between reasoning abilities (i.e., PRI, BD, and MR as in Fig. 1) and the level of network integrity was strongest for network efficiency in males and for network path length for females, suggesting subtle sex differences in the relation of network integration to intelligence. Furthermore, positive correlations between global network efficiency and BD and PRI scores in this study were largest in younger children, suggesting different trajectories of the brain network underlying intelligence across the children's age (Supplementary Fig. 3) as proposed in Shaw et al. (2006). In future studies, it would be helpful to investigate the effect of age on a sample with broader age range. "

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    • "To date there are only two studies that describe a correlation between DTI network efficiency (global and local) and IQ; one study in young adults between 17 and 33 years [Li et al., 2009] and one in older people between 72 and 90 years [Wen et al., 2011]. In addition, it is likely that the structural brain associations with IQ are not stable throughout life; for instance, cortical thickness develops differently depending on IQ [Brans et al., 2010; Brouwer et al., 2013; Karama et al., 2009; Schnack et al., 2015; Shaw et al., 2006]. Thus, possibly, the association between local efficiency and IQ grows with network maturation when also the relation between global efficiency and IQ becomes evident. "
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    ABSTRACT: The brain is a network and our intelligence depends in part on the efficiency of this network. The network of adolescents differs from that of adults suggesting developmental changes. However, whether the network changes over time at the individual level and, if so, how this relates to intelligence, is unresolved in adolescence. In addition, the influence of genetic factors in the developing network is not known. Therefore, in a longitudinal study of 162 healthy adolescent twins and their siblings (mean age at baseline 9.9 [range 9.0-15.0] years), we mapped local and global structural network efficiency of cerebral fiber pathways (weighted with mean FA and streamline count) and assessed intelligence over a three-year interval. We find that the efficiency of the brain's structural network is highly heritable (locally up to 74%). FA-based local and global efficiency increases during early adolescence. Streamline count based local efficiency both increases and decreases, and global efficiency reorganizes to a net decrease. Local FA-based efficiency was correlated to IQ. Moreover, increases in FA-based network efficiency (global and local) and decreases in streamline count based local efficiency are related to increases in intellectual functioning. Individual changes in intelligence and local FA-based efficiency appear to go hand in hand in frontal and temporal areas. More widespread local decreases in streamline count based efficiency (frontal cingulate and occipital) are correlated with increases in intelligence. We conclude that the teenage brain is a network in progress in which individual differences in maturation relate to level of intellectual functioning. Hum Brain Mapp, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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    • "Our current approach to understanding human development is based mainly on observations of how changes in cognitive performance relate to functional and anatomical brain development [Cohen Kadosh, et al., 2013a; Shaw, et al., 2006]. Despite the importance of changes in excitatory and inhibitory inputs for the maturation of cortical circuits [Carcea and Froemke, 2013; Hensch and Bilimoria, 2012; Hensch and Stryker, 2004], nothing is known about the relative contribution of neurotransmitter interactions, such as excitatory (glutamate) or inhibitory (g-aminobutyric acid, (GABA)) neurotransmitter levels, to these developmental changes in humans. "
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    ABSTRACT: Developmental adjustments in the balance of excitation and inhibition are thought to constrain the plasticity of sensory areas of the cortex. It is unknown however, how changes in excitatory or inhibitory neurochemical expression (glutamate, g-aminobutyric acid (GABA)) contribute to skill acquisition during development. Here we used single-voxel proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to reveal how differences in cortical glutamate vs. GABA ratios relate to face proficiency and working memory abilities in children and adults. We show that higher glutamate levels in the inferior frontal gyrus correlated positively with face processing proficiency in the children, but not the adults, an effect which was independent of age-dependent differences in underlying cortical gray matter. Moreover, we found that glutamate/GABA levels and gray matter volume are dissociated at the different maturational stages. These findings suggest that increased excitation during development is linked to neuroplasticity and the acquisition of new cogni- tive skills. They also offer a new, neurochemical approach to investigating the relationship between cogni- tive performance and brain development across the lifespan.
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