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Human Intelligence and Brain Health – Are They Related?

There are many different definitions of intelligence. A widely accepted general definition includes the ability of the brain to think, learn, understand, reason, perceive relationships and connections, comprehend ideas and concepts, make decisions, and solve problems. (Intelligence is interpreted very differently across cultures – especially in third world countries.) The key concepts listed above, however, apply to cultures across the globe. Intelligent humans are successfully able to interact within their community/environment and find ways to thrive.

Intelligence Quotient
Cognitive ability is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It can vary greatly among individuals. The most common measurement of intelligence is referred to as a person’s IQ (Intelligence Quotient). It is a numerical score that is obtained from standardized tests designed to assess various aspects of cognition, such as verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and processing speed.  It was developed in 1939 by David Weschler. Weschler defined intelligence as “The global capacity of a person to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his/her environment.”

Multiple Intelligences
Howard Gardner, an American developmental psychologist, felt that too much emphasis was placed on verbal and logical/mathematical skills in determining intelligence and developed his Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983. He broadened the definition of intelligence beyond using just the IQ score to include eight different types of intelligence.  He felt that everyone had some amount of each of these bits of intelligence, but they would vary individually, based on our genetics and environment (experience).

1.) Linguistic Intelligence (word smart) – the ability to learn and use language to accomplish your goals

 2.) Logical/Mathematical Intelligence (number smart) – the ability to analyze issues logically and solve abstract problems using mathematics

3.) Intrapersonal Intelligence (self-smart) – the ability to understand one’s desires, fears, and abilities in order to achieve life’s goals

4.) Interpersonal Intelligence (people smart) – the ability to understand the intentions and motivations of others

5.) Musical Intelligence (music smart) – the ability to perform, compose, and/or appreciate musical patterns (pitch, rhythm, timbre and tone)

6.) Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence (body smart) – the ability to use one’s body to solve problems or create products 

7.) Spatial Intelligence (picture smart) – the ability to recognize and manipulate patterns in space

 8.) Naturalist Intelligence (nature smart) – the ability to identify different types of plants, animals, minerals, and weather formations that are found in nature

You can examine these eight areas of intelligence that Gardner identified and identify your strengths and weaknesses.  It is a much more practical view of intelligence and takes into consideration many ways that individuals can be considered intelligent. It is a more holistic view of human potential which values a wider range of intelligence and can lead to more personalized and effective learning and development.  As individuals learn to develop their strengths and interests, they can become more satisfied with their lives and more productive in their communities.

Intelligence “in” the Brain
The brain is the primary organ responsible for human intelligence, and brain health is closely linked to cognitive functioning and intelligence. The brain is composed of different regions that perform different functions, such as memory, attention and language processing, and intelligence is not localized to a single brain region. Scientists feel that intelligence may be an indicator of how well all areas of a person’s brain work together — in other words, how healthy the whole brain is. The function and connections between brain regions can be shaped by environmental and experiential factors, highlighting that our brain function is dynamic and adaptable!

Cognitive Epidemiology
This is the area of science that studies the associations between IQ scores and health – specifically related to morbidity (having a disease/condition) and mortality (deaths in a population) statistics. A strong inverse correlation exists between intelligence and mortality. This means that increased intelligence correlates with decreased mortality; and decreased intelligence correlates with increased mortality.  This correlation exists across different populations globally and regardless of time.

Intelligence and Brain Health
Maintaining good brain health is important for preserving cognitive functioning and optimizing intelligence. This can be achieved through various lifestyle factors, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and stress management. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, learning a new skill, or playing brain games, can also promote brain health and enhance cognitive functioning.

On the other hand, certain factors can have a negative impact on brain health and cognitive functioning. These include chronic stress, substance abuse, poor nutrition, and lack of sleep. Additionally, certain medical conditions, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, or neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, can also affect brain health and cognitive functioning.

We must use our intelligence to study the science regarding brain health risk factors and make personal choices daily to maintain and/or improve our own brain health. Our lifestyle choices have profound effects on the health of our bodies and brains. We know, more than ever before, how simple, daily changes can equate to long-term changes in our brain’s optimal health. It is never too late to start a new brain-healthy habit!

In brain health and wellness,
LeAnne & Krystal

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