The neurobiological basis of intelligence

Neuroimaging provides evidence that human intelligence is tied to several structural and functional brain properties. The concept of “neural efficiency” plays a central role in understanding intellectual performance and capability.

So, what exactly is ‘neural efficiency’? Think of it this way: Consider a very complex computer with thousands of components and perhaps 1 million or more interconnections between them. We all have experienced the failure of our computers to carry out a command sometimes leading to an unexpected output or a complete freeze. Very complex systems such as those used by the military and NASA often have built-in systems so that if one part fails others come into play so that commands can be completed accurately. Our brain consists of between 80 and 100 billion neurons and perhaps anywhere from many trillion to almost a quadrillion connections. In addition to structural connectivity there is the functional connectivity and the direction of flow within circuits.

When one is trying to comprehend a very complex concept it requires screening out extraneous stimuli and the ability to focus on those aspects of the problem which can lead to a successful solution. This may require the interaction of specific networks such as the salience network and the dorsal, ventral, attention networks and other brain systems such as those associated with output – both skeletal motor, and autonomic. In a system as complex as the human brain perhaps there are failures in those portions of the circuits that are necessary to fully comprehend and make decisions based on many types of information that must be integrated. Perhaps for an individual with more limited intellectual capacity more of these “circuit failures” occur than for individuals with superior intellect.

We are only beginning to develop measures that might help us understand how these circuits operate. A recently posted paper “multimodal description of whole brain connectivity” by Pilar Graces et al. examines the interrelationship for structural connectivity and functional connectivity using diffusion weighted imaging, FMRI, MEG\EEG. This information, particularly when cast in a graph format where we can look at the relationship between nodes and their hubs and the vertices or links between them, may begin to give us some idea of how to measure “neural efficiency” in individuals with different intellectual capacities under different task conditions. This may be particularly useful in being able to understand special abilities such as superior mathematical ability, artistic ability, musical, or advanced writing skills.

It is predicted that within the next decade, especially considering that articles are appearing at the rate of more than one per day dealing with the complexity of brain organization, we may be able to really understand at a very detailed level the basis for different intellectual capabilities and perhaps with neurofeedback and/or stimulation techniques develop ways to enhance people with deficient intellectual capacity as well as those who are normal or even have superior capacities that they would like to enhance further.

Neurotechnology – A New Way To Train Your Brain

10 Neurotechnologies About to Transform Brain Enhancement and Brain Health

30,000 scientists and professionals gathered in Chicago recently for the annual Society for Neuroscience Conference, proving the growing interest to better understand the inner workings of the human brain, and to discover ways and technologies to enhance its health and performance.

To help discover which ongoing technological efforts are closer to touching our lives, Sharpbrains.com examined the world-wide landscape of Neurotechnology patents. Investment in these types of intellectual properties is a sign of what is on the horizon for Neurotechnology. They paid extra attention to neurtechnologies that were non-invasive and pose few, if any negative side effects. Through their year-long analysis of thousands of patents, they uncovered ten innovative brain health and brain enhancement systems on the cutting edge, that in their estimation are likely to go main­stream over the next few years.

  1. Big Data-enhanced diagnostics and treatments-  As the costs of computing power, cloud accessibility and hard­ware sensors dwindle, brain health systems can leverage measurements taken from a far broader swath of the population than ever before possible. This analysis helps understand precisely where an individual’s readings lie on the distribution curve of health to disease, drives the ability to understand with nuance how one’s readings changes over time, and allows better discernment of proper diagnoses through biofeedback and neurofeedback and other treatments based on the efficacy of treatments with others having similar brain signatures.
  1. Brain-Computer Interfaces for device control- Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) link the commands of our thoughts to the devices of the world. The global BCI market is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2020, of which 85% is estimated to be non-invasive.
  1. Real-time neuromonitoring (plus robotic aids)- A good number of companies, including Medtronic, Neuropace and St. Jude Medical, are currently developing systems to actively monitor brain activity and respond in real-time with appropriate treatments. These systems can discern symptoms leading up to an undesirable brain event (such as a seizure), and provide preemptive treatments to mitigate or altogether thwart epileptic activity.  
  1. Neurosensor-based vehicle operator systems- Systems employing neural detection devices to monitor vehicle operator alertness (or a lack ­thereof) and take preventive measures with driver stimulation or vehicle autopilot/shut ­down systems are described by multiple patents. The US Army, automotive companies like Toyota, start-ups like Freer Logic, medical device makers and insurers are all patenting inventions addressing this concern. 
  1. Cognitive training video games- Software applications accessible online and via mobile devices include gaming systems that target specific cognitive and/or emotional systems of the brain.
  1. Brain-responsive computing systems- A recent study by Microsoft finds that 68% of early tech adopters and 67% of heavy social media users really have to concentrate hard to stay focused on tasks. So, large tech companies are patenting systems to improve productivity and worker out­put, for example by using EEG signals to recognize user’s mental state and tailor the computing experience.
  1. Virtual Reality treatments, in conjunction with EEG and/or tDCS – Whether for treating PTSD and phobias through exposure therapy, or assisting surgeons in the operating room, virtual-reality is quickly gaining momentum. Medical tech companies such as Medtronic and Brain­lab, and consumer research firms such as Nielsen are building significant IP portfolios in the area. The following patent by Evoke Neuroscience shows the interplay between virtual reality, EEG and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).   This will be the new addition to our treatment program in 2016.

  8. “Mindful” wearables – Wearables are being designed to improve not just physical health but mental well being as well. Meditation apps in                      tandem with con­sumer EEGs like InteraXon’s Muse  aim to help users build concentration and self-regulation skills.

  1. Collaborative cognitive simulations- These are systems that focus on improving learning and skill acquisition across the extended workforce through online interactive platforms and cognitive simulation models (cognitive behavioral therapies). Human capital-intensive organizations such as AT&T and Accenture, are developing multiple applications in the area, and securing relevant intellectual property rights.
  1. Electrical and magnetic brain stimulation- These are technologies that can influence brain activity via magnetic fields or electrical impulses, and they are becoming increasingly common. Multiple hospitals and clinics already offer treatments based on brain stimulation, DARPA has awarded contracts to develop systems to augment memory with targeted electrical stimulation techniques, and consumers can buy wearable devices claiming to induce an array of brain states from calming to energizing.

Men Are From Venus and Women Are From Mars – Brain Wise

Remember the top selling book back in the 1990’s, Men are from Venus and Women are from Mars.   The book was acclaimed the “highest rank work of non fiction” by CNN and was on the best seller list for 121 weeks.  Wikipedia says:  “The book states that most common relationship problems between men and women are a result of fundamental psychological differences between the sexes, which the author exemplifies by means of its eponymous metaphor: that men and women are from distinct planets—men from Mars and women from Venus—and that each sex is acclimated to its own planet’s society and customs, but not to those of the other.”

We may not be from different planets but we do have different brains.  Why does the male brain want to fight and win?  Dr. A K Pradeep says it is due to a larger amygdala.   Why does the male respond to emotions with logic?  Larger Temporoparietal Junction.  Why is the male more reactive, impulsive?  Smaller Prefrontal Cortex.  Why does emotional memory play a stronger role in the female brain?  Larger Insula, Hippocampus.

When you look at the young and the old brains there are some differences as well.  The teen brain is incapable of logic and flocks, seems to belong.  The senior brain is easily distracted and reacts powerfully to early music.  The teen may have strong hormonal changes, the senior brain experiences neurotransmitter drop.

Our brains change as we age.  The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until late 20’s and myelination is not complete until around 25.  We experience good stress and bad stress as we age.   Stress impacts the adrenal glands that produce cortisol and our fight or flight balance becomes unstable.  These are general ways to look at the differences between male and female, young and old brains.

Specifically how your brain works relates to 3 factors. 1)Genetics. 2) Physical Trauma. 3) Emotional Trauma. All three of these factors impact your ability to function, both on a cognitive and emotional level.  The good news is that you can change the way your brain is working, or not working.

To learn more about maximizing your brain performance with biofeedback, neurofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy call 817-500-4863 for a free consultation.

The Power to Say No – How The Brain Self Regulates

It is late afternoon and your energy is dragging, a cookie would be a nice pick me up right about now.  Do you make a healthy choice and suppress the craving, or do you make a less healthy choice and eat the cookie?  The level of difficulty you have with saying no depends on how your brain self regulates.

Self regulation is part of  your self control, negativity bias, emotional resilience, confidence and social skills.  Self regulation is involved in your emotions, thinking, feelings, and is a function of interactions between the brain and the body.

Scientists at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have identified the neural processes that a part of  self regulation.  There are two systems that take control of our decision making behavior, both in the frontal lobes, and they compete for control.  In the September 26 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience Caltech published a paper about these competing brain systems.  In some cases, the two systems guide behavior in the same direction, and in some cases they don’t.  The outcome of the decision is determined by which of the two systems take control.

Evidence shows that people make decisions by assigning different values to various options.  We select what we value the most.  The ability to make the right decision depends on whether the brain can activate the appropriate system, the one that values the healthier choice, in this case, not eating the cookie.

The two areas of the brain involved in self regulation are the dorsolateral prefrontal cortecx (dlPFC) which is behind the temples, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) in the middle of the forehead just above the eyes. Each area plays a very different role in the self regulation process, and the brain’s ability to switch between these areas is not instantaneous and can take a few seconds.

Caltech research found that activity in two different brain areas correlated with how much we want an item.  When a volunteer tried to suppress a craving the vmPFC initially appeared to drive the behavior, and the dlFPC seemed to take over when the volunteer tried to rein in their appetite.   The research offers a reason as to why it is so difficult to control your behavior. You may think about the cookie, start to go for it and then suddenly you have your better judgment take over.

For those that want more information, the title of the paper is, “Cognitive regulation during decision making shifts behavioral control between ventromedial and dorsolateral prefrontal value systems.”  For those  that want to work on your own self regulation skills, visit www.mybrainsolutions.com and try a free trial with their brain training games that are scientifically designed to build these types of skills.

 

 

 

 

3 Things You Need To Know To Protect Your Brain Health

With fall sports in full swing, accidents are in the air, do you know what you can do to protect your brain health?  Concussions happen at an astounding rate.  It is estimated that the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion may be as high as 19% per season.  About 50% of the reported head injuries are a result of  motor vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian vehicle accidents affecting the age group 18 – 25 the most.  Another group at high risk is the elderly group where falls correlate to a high injury rate.

Here are 3 things you should know to protect your brain health.                                                                                                                                 1) A concussion or traumatic brain injury can show up in many ways.  With a mild concussion you may experience a brief or no loss of consciousness.  You may appear dazed or have a vacant stare after the injury.  Testing and scans may appear normal and symptoms may not be noticeable until later.  Recovery may take days or weeks, with individuals experiencing dizziness, headaches, double vision, memory problems, irritability, and or depression.                                                                                                                                              2) You can lower your risk for injury if you take care of yourself and your family.  This means protect yourself.  Wear a helmet, one with a strap that will stay on when you fall.  Be sure that your children are receiving a baseline neurocognitive test that can be utilized in return to play decisions to ensure proper time has elapsed for the brain to heal.  For elderly family members, be sure that they have proper railing to hold on to in the bathroom area where most of the falls occur.  After an accident of injury look for mood swings or changes in sleep patterns or problems with focus and concentration.  Be proactive and be sure proper assessment and treatment is provided.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3) Closed head injuries can have long term consequences, particularly if a 2nd or 3rd injury occurs before the brain has properly healed.  Research has shown the effect of repeated injury over the course of a professional athletes career can result in long term cognitive impairment and emotional issues, such as depression.

Remember, a brain injury can happen to anyone.  Protect yourself and learn more about injury prevention and control.  For more information visit the Center for Disease Control website, http://www.cdc.gov/concussion or The Brain Injury Association of Texas, www.biatx.org.

 

 

Want to get in the ZONE – Put your game face on

Actually, it is more about putting your game “brain” on to get a clear brain-body connection and stay in the zone.  Ask yourself three questions: 1) Do you let your positive and negative thoughts intrude at critical moments? 2) Do you have a positive visualization or affirmation you use to help switch the brain into the “zone”? 3) Do you know how to stop the “fight or flight” reflex that comes out at crucial times?

If you answered these questions with a NO then you need a training strategy. Whether it is at work, at school, or an athletic event, to be at your best you need the brain to be at optimal arousal.  This includes an optimal balance of right hemisphere relative to left hemishpere, the various brain wave frequencies to be balanced and a personalized optimal breathing rate.

The link below will take you to Dr. Gordon who provides a good overview of what you can do to determine what your zone is, how to develop a zone culture, and how to stay in the zone.   It all comes down to train the brain.

http://www.mybrainsolutions.com/library/2012/08/in-the-zone-peak-performance/