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Can fundamental life factors explain differences in how our brains are connected?

Tom NicholsResearch by Professor Tom Nichols and colleagues has been featured in the papers with headlines like "Intelligent people's brains are wired differently" (Daily Mail, 28 Sept.). The research is based on unique data from Human Connectome Project (HCP), a collaboration with researchers in Oxford University and Washington University in St. Louis. The HCP data has produced MRI data with high temporal and spatial resolution, specifically tailored to image the connections between different brain regions. In this project, they used 461 subjects to find associations between brain connectivity and over 280 behavioural, health and demographic factors. A single factor with a clear positive vs. negative axis of life factors was found to correlate with functional MRI connectivity. Factors like memory, vocabulary, life satisfaction and being well-educated weighed against factors like substance use, poor sleep quality and anger-aggression scores. While many reports in the press have implied a causal link between "happiness" and how the brain is "wired", the current observational study doesn't justify these conclusions.


Smith, S. M., Nichols, T. E., Vidaurre, D., Winkler, A. M., Behrens, T. E. J., Glasser, M. F., Ugurbil, K., Barch, D.M., Van Essen, D.C., Miller, K. L. (2015). A positive-negative mode of population covariation links brain connectivity, demographics and behavior. Nature Neuroscience, (September), 1–7. doi:10.1038/nn.4125

An interview with Professor Nichols covering this subject can be found here.



Wed 28 Oct 2015, 14:31 | Tags: Science, Faculty of Science, Statistics

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