Study of the Day: IQ Rises and Falls During Teenage Years

More

New research using structural brain scans calls into question a popular measure of intelligence that presupposes consistency

main l i g h t p o e t shutterstock_84193930.jpg

PROBLEM: We routinely use IQ tests to predict our children's prospects for education and employment. But what if this measure, which hinges on consistency, is not that stable during adolescence?

METHODOLOGY: The researchers, led by University College London professor Cathy Price, administered IQ tests on 33 participants between the ages of 12 and 16 years in 2004. They repeated the tests four years later with the same subjects. On both occasions, the authors took structural brain scans of the subjects using magnetic resonance imaging.

RESULTS: The scientists found significant differences in IQ scores that correlated with changes in brain structures. An increase in verbal IQ score matched up with an increase in the density of grey matter in an area of the brain that's activated when articulating speech. Similarly, an increase in non-verbal IQ score was associated with an increase in the density of grey matter in the anterior cerebellum, which is associated with movements of the hand.

CONCLUSION: IQ rises or falls significantly during adolescence.

IMPLICATION: The practice of assessing children early in life and determining their course of education may need to be reevaluated. As Price puts it in a statement: "We have to be careful not to write off poorer performers at an early stage when in fact their IQ may improve significantly given a few more years."

SOURCE: The study, "Verbal and Nonverbal Intelligence Changes in the Teenage Brain," was funded by the Wellcome Trust Centre and is published in the journal Nature.

Image: l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In