Though the question of whether or not a bigger brain makes you smarter is simple, the answer is complicated. Part of the problem lies in the fact that scientists are divided on just what a bigger brain means. Is it physical size, capacity, weight, circumference or some other measure? While it seems logical that brain size and intelligence are related, the bigger question is how.
Does a Bigger Brain Make You Smarter: Albert Einstein’s Stolen Brain
When Albert Einstein died in 1955, scientists did a curious thing. They removed his brain, sliced it into 240 pieces and preserved it in jars. Why did they do this? The answer was simple: they wanted to study Einstein’s brain to find out if his superior intelligence was due to having a bigger than the average brain. This was not a new scientific question. For over 100 years, scientists have sought to answer the question of how brain size and intelligence are related.
Shortly after Einstein’s death, the pathologist who performed his autopsy “stole” his brain and kept it under wraps for forty years. Since it surfaced, scientists have weighed, measured and studied Einstein’s brain in every imaginable way to try and answer this question. Could Einstein’s brain hold clues to the source of his genius? Was his brain bigger than the average brain?
Does a Bigger Brain Make You Smarter: Einstein’s Brain May Hold the Answers
Research conducted in 1999 at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada concluded that Einstein’s intelligence may have been due to unusual brain development, not the size of his brain. While Einstein’s brain was on par with the average brain as far as size, it did have several unusual features including a greater ratio of glial cells to neurons and the absence of a parietal operculum in either hemisphere.
Einstein also had a larger than normal inferior parietal region. The inferior parietal region is the part of the brain responsible for mathematical thought and reasoning. Einstein’s brain was physically different from the average brain but it was not bigger. Though certain parts of Einstein’s brain were larger, to compensate other parts seemed to be missing altogether.
Does a Bigger Brain Make You Smarter: What Does Research Show
Research on Einstein’s brain has shown that size alone is not the determinate factor in intelligence. Rather, it seems that it is a combination of size along with “a brain’s underlying organization and molecular activity at its synapses (the communication junctions between neurons through which nerve impulses pass) that dictate intelligence.”
Does a Bigger Brain Make You Smarter: Dolphin Brains
This has proved true when looking at humans in comparison to other mammals of comparable brain size such as dolphins. Dolphins have a slightly bigger brain than humans. If a bigger brain size determined intelligence, wouldn’t it follow that a mammal with a larger brain would be more intelligent? And yet, though dolphins are intelligent animals comparatively speaking, they are not considered by most as intelligent as humans. Why? Well, dolphins have a relatively simple brain structure, nowhere near as complex as humans. According to Paul Manger, professor of health sciences at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, “brain size only matters if the rest of the brain is organized properly to facilitate information processing.”
Does a Bigger Brain Make You Smarter: Size Does Matter…To An Extent
Scientists have sought to answer the question of whether there is a correlation between brain size and intelligence since before Albert Einstein’s brain was dissected and studied in 1955. The research findings on the question of whether a bigger brain makes you smarter are mixed. Scientists found that children with ADHD had brains that were 3% to 4% smaller than those without the condition. Children with lead poisoning early in life were found to have lower intelligence and smaller brains. However, though research has found that brains shrink with age, intelligence or mental capabilities are not always altered.
Though scientists remain divided on the question of overall brain size as related to intelligence, research has shown that size does matter. Smarter brains tend to be bigger in certain areas such as parts of the parietal and frontal lobes.These parts of the brain have been shown to play a significant role in superior intelligence.