Scientists at the University of Western Ontario have discovered that perhaps IQ is not the best measure of cognitive performance.
Instead, they found that verbal language, short-term memory, and logical reasoning were the most important predictors of cognitive performance.
In the largest online intelligence study on record, over 100,000 participants completed 12 cognitive tests focusing on memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities, as well as a survey about their background and lifestyle habits.
The findings reveal that when many different cognitive abilities are taken into account, the variations in performance can be explained by three distinct components: short-term memory, reasoning and a verbal component.
No one component, or IQ, is responsible for everything. Furthermore, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to demonstrate that these variations in cognitive ability are associated with distinct circuits in the brain.
With so many study participants, the results offered a wealth of new information regarding how factors such as age, gender and the tendency to play computer games influence our brain function.
“The uptake was astonishing,” said Adrian M. Owen, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging and senior investigator on the project.
“We expected a few hundred responses, but thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds from every corner of the world.”
“Regular brain training didn’t help people’s cognitive performance at all yet aging had a profound negative effect on both memory and reasoning abilities,” said Owen.
Adam Hampshire from Western’s Brain and Mind Institute said, “Intriguingly, people who regularly played computer games did perform significantly better in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory.
“And smokers performed poorly on the short-term memory and the verbal factors, while people who frequently suffer from anxiety performed badly on the short-term memory factor in particular.”
The findings from the landmark study were published Dec. 19 in the journal Neuron.
Source: University of Western Ontario