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Oct 25, 2021
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Is a big head a sign of intelligence?

Is a big head a sign of intelligence?

The debate about whether a big brain indicates a big mind is eternal. They probably arose already when a person first thought about such an abstract concept as thinking.

The point is not put in the dispute, but it seems that the study of scientists from the University of Munich adds to the arguments of one of the parties.

The arguments for those who advocate a direct link between brain size and intelligence seem logical. A big head has more brain, it has more nerve cells that are responsible, including for thinking, and therefore such a head is smarter.

However, this completely scientific reasoning is sometimes refuted by practice. There are known very smart people, even geniuses, who had not only not large, but not even normal-sized heads. They were real brain midgets. And the most famous of them is simply a symbol and embodiment of the mind itself. It is about the philosopher Immanuel Kant. His brain weighed significantly less than 1.5 kg, which is much less than the average mass of the contents of the cranium. And there are many such exceptions.

Scientists believe that brain size and intellectual ability have nothing to do with it. Moreover, an excessively large brain volume is usually indicative of pathology. It is known that the owner of the heaviest brain – 2900 g – was a mentally retarded person. The size of the brains of even comparable capable people are also noticeably different from each other. For example, Ivan Turgenev’s brain weighed 2012 g, and Anatole France – 1017 g.

Still, big brains seem to be better than small ones. Especially when there are head problems. This was convincingly proved by the very same German scientists from the University of Munich, examining 270 patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

It turns out that those with large skulls during illness retained memory and intellectual skills better than those with smaller brains. Experts believe that this is due to the so-called brain reserve: if it is large, then the problems due to the death of nerve cells that occur in Alzheimer’s disease are mitigated. Even when patients died the same number of neurons, those with larger heads performed better on special thinking tests, they had better memory.

The number of dead cells was determined using a brain scan. Scientists have determined that the loss of 1% of brain cells is compensated by one additional centimeter in the head circumference. By the presence of this centimeter, scientists explained the best, by 6%, indicators when performing tests.

Although brain size is largely determined by genetics, the researchers say lifestyle still has a significant impact on head size. Poor nutrition, injury, and infection can have negative effects.

You need to start thinking about the head as early as possible, even better if the parents think about it before birth. The critical periods for head size are intrauterine development and early life. If in an adult the ratio of head size to body size is 1: 7 or even 1: 8, then in a newborn this figure is 1: 4. By the age of six, it declines and the brain reaches 93% of its final volume in adulthood.

Lars Chittka, professor at the University of London: “A big brain differs from a small one not in a complex device, but only in an endless repetition of neural circuits. They do not add complexity to memorized images and sounds, but only slightly enrich them with details. “

Scientists believe that a healthy early childhood and even pregnancy can create a good brain reserve, which helps to delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease and will facilitate its easier course if it occurs.

Andrey Perventsev

Photo: Adobe stock

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