Intelligence, creativity, and white matter in yer brain

I got some comments from Jeff and Tanner via FB on a link I posted about white matter and complex behaviors. Here were my comments on this...

Just to be clear - I'm not (yet) an expert on how structures in the brain are tied to behavior, especially complex behaviors (such as lying), but I'd suggest that we stay skeptical of what research have to say about these relationships.

Two points:


(1) It is WAYYY interesting to speculate that "liars" (however operationalized) need all that white matter so that they can come up with lies quickly and imagine scenarios that don't exist so that they don't get caught in lies. OR, maybe it is because of this white matter that they just say the first thing that comes to mind without thinking about alternatives. Hard to say without looking at the data, but I'm guessing one of these stories is seductive to you based on whether or not you are a liar.

(2) Having read a few papers related to the brain activity/structure and complex behaviors (reasoning, problem solving, reading, etc.), it seems to me that we have a tenuous grasp (at best) on how they are related. But the good news is that as much as our brains guide our behaviors, it appears that our behaviors can also influence our brains, which is good news for education folks like me...

Here are a couple of interesting quotes from the stories/research we were discussing:

On creative people...

The volunteers' capacity for divergent thinking - a factor in creativity that includes coming up with new ideas - had already been tested. Jung found that the most creative people had lower white-matter integrity in a region connecting the prefrontal cortex to a deeper structure called the thalamus, compared with their less creative peers (PLoS ONEDOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009818).

On liars:

A University of Southern California team studied 49 people and found those known to be pathological liars had up to 26% more white matter than others. White matter transmits information and grey matter processes it. Having more white matter in the prefrontal cortex may aid lying, the researchers said. But the British Journal of Psychiatry said there were likely to be more differences in the brains of liars.