What makes you intelligent?

 If I were able to design an incredibly sophisticated, state of the art piece of neurotechnology, I would create equipment with the ability to measure intelligence, and determine the neural basis for someone being classed as an intellect, or a “genius” . What makes one person more intelligent than the next? Can you enhance intelligence? Does intelligence deteriorate? These are all questions that I would love to answer using highly advanced technology to do so. The reason for being so attracted toward this area specifically, is the magnitude of questions to which have unknown answers, and the the multiple interpretations of the definition of intelligence.  The intelligence quotient (most commonly known as an IQ test), is one of today’s very few methods of measuring intelligence- obtaining an overall IQ score based on a test comprised of simple arithmetic, vocabulary, memory, mazes, general knowledge etc. While the scores obtained do act as an indication of the abilities of that individual, I feel the IQ test does not give us the whole picture, focusing on such a limited range of a human’s capability.

This piece of technology would act as a new imaging system of the brain, which is rich in detail. With the same principle as the modern day MRI scan in mind, this technology would be able to locate the “source” of intelligence. To do this, the individual would be required to complete a series of problems, perceived to be academically challenging (for example), while the technology would map the neural activity of the brain, the volume of different regions of the brain, as well as the overall size of the brain. In this way, we would be able to identify whether the number of connections made between neurons gives rise to intelligence, whether the volume of grey matter in the Cerebellum determines cognitive ability, or alternatively, whether the physical size of the brain plays a role! We want to identify the structural difference in someone who is deemed to be “clever”, from someone who is not. This piece of technology would have no direct impact on your cognitive ability, or in altering your nervous system to become “more intelligent”, it would simply act as a device that is able to recognise intelligence when it sees it!

To make this technology possible, I believe that a greater understanding of each part of the brain would have to be established: function, composition, as well as down to the type of neuron most prevalent in each region. While the function of this machinery is to ultimately provide a detailed image of the brain, it needs to be able to detect the very small  action potentials generated by neurons in the brain, and so in terms of sensitivity, technology does need to become more advanced (since I would want to avoid any invasive procedure). Although ambitious, I believe this technology would be building on the systems already in use today, and so I am hopeful that this device could successfully be used within the next 30 years.


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