By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science WriterWed Mar 29, 12:02 PM ET
Very smart children may seem advanced in many ways, but a new study shows they actually lag behind other kids in development of the "thinking" part of the brain.
The brain's outer mantle, or cortex, gets thicker and then thins during childhood and the teen years. The study found that in kids with superior intelligence, the cortex reaches its thickest stage a few years later
than in other children.
Nobody knows what causes that or how it relates to superior intelligence. But researchers said the finding does not rule out a role for environment such as intellectual stimulation in affecting a child's level of intelligence.
In fact, the delay may promote higher intelligence because it means a child is older, and processing more complex experiences, while the cortex is building up, said study co-author Dr. Judith Rapoport.
Rapoport, with researcher Dr. Philip Shaw and others at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., followed development of the cortex in 307 children. They used repeated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans from childhood to the latter teens.
Results appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
The findings are especially strong for cortex development in the front part of the brain and in a strip over the top of the head, areas where complex mental tasks
are done, Shaw said.
One analysis found the cortex in kids with the highest IQs 121 to 149 didn't reach maximum thickness until age 11. Children who were just slightly less bright reached that point at age 9, and those with average intelligence at around 6. In all cases, the cortex later thinned as the children matured.
Nobody knows what's happening within the cortex to make it get thicker or thinner, Shaw said, so it's impossible to say why those changes would be related to intelligence. Brain development is influenced by intellectual stimulation, so that probably plays a role, he said.
The study findings are "certainly not a recipe for how to change intelligence," he said. Nor do they suggest that MRI scans can reveal how intelligent an individual child is, he said.
Elizabeth Sowell of the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied cortex thickness in children, said she found the results convincing.
the findings show that the pattern of cortex development is related to high intelligence, they can't show which is causing the other, she said.
She also said that by tracing out patterns of normal development, such studies help scientists understand what goes wrong in children with brain disorders.
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"The head-organization is so constituted that the internal white portion of the brain (the white-matter) represents physically the most highly advanced part of the human organization. This portion of the brain contains a sensory activity, which comprises the other senses and into which the ego and astral body work. It participates also in the rhythmic system of the organism, into which the astral body and the etheric are working, and it also participates, though to a very small extent, in the metabolic and limb-system in which the physical and etheric work. This part of the brain differentiates itself from the surrounding periphery, the grey matter, which in its physical organization contains far
more of the metabolic and limb-system, somewhat more of the rhythmic system, and least of all of the nerves-and-senses system."
Spiritual Science and Medicine
It is a complete, one might say a foolish error to suppose that the substrate substance of thought is mainly given in the grey matter of the brain. This is not so. The grey matter serves principally to conduct nourishment to the brain. It is essentially a colony of the digestive tract, surrounding the brain in order to feed it, whereas the white matter of the brain is of a great importance as substrate substance of thought.
Karmic Relationships: Esoteric Studies - Volume I
"We have two clearly distinct members of our brain the more outer peripheric brain, the grey matter; and beneath it, the white matter. Then the white matter merges into the sense-organs. Here is the grey matter (see the diagram); it is far less evolved than the white. The terms grey and white are, of course, only approximate. Thus, even crudely, anatomically considered it is so: The objects make an impression on us, passing through the eye and on into the processes that take place in the white matter of the brain. Our ideas or mental presentations, on the
other hand, have their organ in the grey matter, which, incidentally, has quite a different cell-structure, and there the ideas are lighting up and vanishing like dreams. There the ideas are flickering up, because beneath this region (compare the diagram once more) the process of the impressions is taking place.
If it depended on the ideas going down into you somewhere, and you then had to fetch them out again in memory, you would remember nothing at all. You would have no memory. It is really like this: In the present moment, let us say, I see something. The impression of it (whatever it may be) goes into me, mediated by the white matter of the brain. The grey matter works in its turn, dreaming of the impressions, making pictures of them. The mental pictures come and go; they are quite evanescent. As to what really remains, we do not conceive it at all in this moment, but it goes down into our organisation,
and when we remember, we look within; down there the impression remains permanent.
Thus when you see something blue, an impression goes into you from the blue (below, in the diagram), while here (above, in the diagram) you yourself form an idea, a mental presentation of the blue. The idea is transient. Then, after three days perhaps, you observe in your brain the impression that has remained. Once more you form the idea of blue. This time, however, you do so as you look inward. The first time, when you saw the blue from without, you were stimulated from outside by a blue object. The second time namely now, when you remember it you are stimulated from within, because in effect the blueness has reproduced itself within you. In both cases it is the same process, namely a process of perception. Memory too is perception. In effect, our day-waking consciousness consists in ideation, in the forming of ideas; but
there beneath the ideation certain processes are going on. They too, rise into our consciousness by an act of ideation, namely by our forming of ideas in the act of memory. Underneath this activity of ideation is the perceiving, the pure process of perception. And, underneath this in turn, is Feeling.
Thus we can distinguish more intimately, in our head-organisation or thought-organisation the perceiving and the activity of ideation. What we have perceived, we can then remember. But it actually remains very largely unconscious; it is only in memory that it rises into consciousness. What really takes place in man is no longer experienced in consciousness by man himself. When he perceives, he experiences in consciousness the idea, the mental presentation of it. The real effect of the perception goes into him. Out of this real effect, he is then able to awaken the memory. But at this place the unconscious
In reality it is only here, in this region (see the diagram) where, in our waking-day consciousness we form ideas it is only here that we ourselves are, as Man. Only here do we really have ourselves as Man. Where we do not reach down with our consciousness (for we do not even reach to the causes of our memories), where we do not reach down, there we do not have ourselves as Man, but are incorporated in the world.
It is just as it is in the physical life you breathe in; the air you now have in yourself was outside you a short while ago, it was the-air-of-the-world; now it is your air. After a short time you give it back again to the world. You are one with the world. The air is now outside you, now within you. You would not be Man at all, if you were not so united with the world as to have not only that which is
within your skin, but that with which you are connected in the whole surrounding atmosphere. And as you are thus connected on the physical side, so it is as to your spiritual part: the moment you get down into the next subconscious region the region out of which memory arises you are connected with that which we call the Third Hierarchy: Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai. Just as you are connected through your breathing with the air, so are you connected with the Third Hierarchy through your head-organisation, namely the lower head-organisation. This, which is only covered over by the outermost lobes of the brain, belongs solely to the earth. What is immediately beneath is connected with the Third Hierarchy: Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai."
"(Man's/Man and his) spirit must totally become genius(Anthopos-Sophia)."