Intelligence and decision-making: Speed isn’t always an advantage

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Contrary to popular belief, researchers from the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, together with a colleague from Barcelona, have found that individuals with higher intelligence scores tend to think faster only when dealing with simple tasks.

For complex problems, these individuals tend to take more time compared to those with lower IQ scores.

Personalized Brain Simulations

To reach this conclusion, the researchers simulated the brains of 650 participants, finding that those with less synchrony between brain areas were quicker to make decisions, often “jumping to conclusions” before fully processing the problem at hand.

On the other hand, brain models of higher intelligence individuals took more time to tackle challenging tasks but made fewer errors. These discoveries were published in Nature Communications.

Understanding the Brain’s Complexity

The human brain, with approximately 100 billion neurons each connected to around 1,000 other neurons, presents a highly complex network.

Unraveling how this intricate network works is a challenging task and one that Prof. Petra Ritter from the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité is focusing on.

Prof. Ritter and her team are interested in understanding the brain’s decision-making processes and the factors that lead to differences in decision-making among individuals.

To simulate human brain mechanisms, they use data from brain scans and mathematical models based on known biological processes.

Intelligent Brains Take Their Time

One of the most fascinating findings was that both human and simulated brains that were slower at making decisions had a higher level of synchrony between brain regions.

This increased synchrony allowed for more time to be spent on decisions, and as a result, these individuals made fewer errors.

In the context of solving complex tasks, this suggests that spending more time gathering and analyzing evidence before making a decision leads to better outcomes.

This is contrary to the usual assumption that faster decision-making is linked with higher intelligence.

Implications for Treatment Planning

These results have potentially important implications for treatment planning in conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

The simulation technology used in the study is a promising tool for improving personalized treatment plans, such as surgical and drug interventions and therapeutic brain stimulation.

It could potentially help physicians determine the best treatment approach for individual patients and minimize side effects.

Ultimately, the study challenges the conventional understanding of intelligence and decision-making speed, offering a more nuanced view that emphasizes the value of taking one’s time in making decisions, particularly in complex situations.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was published in Nature Communications.

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