A new study conducted by researchers from the Berlin Institute of Health at Charite (BIH) and Charite - Universitatsmedizin Berlin sheds light on the intricate workings of the human brain's decision-making processes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the study reveals that individuals with higher intelligence tend to take more time to solve difficult problems compared to those with lower intelligence. By analysing brain simulations and MRI scans of 650 participants, the researchers discovered that this phenomenon is linked to the level of synchrony between different brain regions. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, provide valuable insights into the relationship between intelligence, decision-making, and brain connectivity.
Understanding the Decision-Making Process:
The human brain is an extraordinary network comprising approximately 100 billion neurons. Each neuron connects with around 1,000 neighbouring or distant neurons, creating a vast and intricate neural network. This network enables the brain to exhibit a wide range of capabilities. In the study, participants were tasked with identifying logical rules in a series of patterns, with the complexity of the rules increasing gradually. To examine the decision-making process, the researchers observed a "winner-take-all" competition occurring among different neural groups involved in making decisions. The neural group with the strongest evidence emerged as the winner.
Intelligence and Time:
Surprisingly, the study found that individuals with higher intelligence took longer to solve challenging tasks. These individuals resisted jumping to conclusions and instead engaged in a more methodical decision-making process. In contrast, those with lower intelligence or reduced synchrony between brain areas tended to rush into conclusions without allowing other brain regions to complete the necessary processing steps. This tendency was associated with making more errors during problem-solving.
The Role of Brain Synchrony:
Through brain simulations and MRI scans, the researchers observed that individuals who took longer to solve problems exhibited higher average functional connectivity, or synchrony, between different brain regions. This enhanced synchrony enabled neural circuits in the frontal lobe to postpone decisions, granting more time for information processing. On the other hand, reduced synchrony hindered decision-making by impeding the availability and storage of information in working memory.
The Impact on Working Memory:
Working memory, the ability to hold and manipulate information temporarily, plays a crucial role in decision-making. The study revealed that synchronization of brain regions affects working memory, influencing the brain's endurance in prolonged decision-making situations. Complex tasks require storing previous progress in working memory while exploring various solution paths. This process of gathering evidence for different solutions may take longer but ultimately leads to better results.
The Human Connectome Project:
The study involved 650 participants from the Human Connectome Project, a long-term initiative initiated in September 2010 to investigate neural connections in the human brain. By leveraging the data collected from these participants, including digital MRI brain scans and mathematical models based on biological processes, the researchers were able to construct personalized brain models. These models, combined with brain simulations, provided valuable insights into the relationship between intelligence, brain connectivity, and decision-making.
This groundbreaking study challenges conventional notions about intelligence and decision-making. Contrary to the common belief that intelligence leads to faster problem-solving, the research demonstrates that individuals with higher intelligence tend to take more time to arrive at solutions for complex problems. This delay is attributed to the increased synchrony between brain regions, allowing for thorough information processing and integration. The findings deepen our understanding of the intricate workings of the human brain and provide a foundation for future research in the field of cognitive neuroscience.