Researchers have reportedly used advanced brain imaging technology to better understand the human brain’s mental capacity.
For years, cognitive researchers have treated the human brain as one of the most complex mysteries of science. It is so complicated that, until now, scientists had no definitive explanation for how it really works. However, a recent study, which involves advanced brain imaging technology, might pave the way for us to understand the connection between brain entropy and intelligence.
So, what is entropy?
Science defines entropy as the progression of a system from order to disorder or low entropy to high entropy. Let’s take an egg as our example. When you separate an egg into yolk and white, it means it has low entropy. Now, if you scrambled the egg, the low entropy shifts to high entropy-from orderly to the most disordered state.Researchers use advanced brain imaging technology to know if brain entropy is indeed related to our intelligence. #fMRIClick To Tweet
Entropy is a fundamental concept that has been applied in most scientific fields, especially physics and mathematics. In fact, physicists use it to describe the current state of our universe after the Big Bang. One argument says everything in the Universe has gradually been moving from low entropy to a state of high entropy.
In brain research, scientists use the concept of entropy to investigate connections and patterns in our brains that interpret our surrounding world.
Using Brain Imaging to Understand Entropy
A new brain imaging study was published in the journal Plos One by researchers from the NYU School of Medicine. In it, the team explained how they used specialized brain imaging technology to measure patients’ brains for entropy.
“Entropy measures the variety of configurations possible within a system, and recently the concept of brain entropy has been defined as the number of neural states a given brain can access,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “This study investigates the relationship between human intelligence and brain entropy, to determine whether neural variability as reflected in neuroimaging signals carries information about intellectual ability.”
In their study, the researchers used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) data. This data consisted of a series of successive MRI brain images taken over time to measure brain entropy. Each 3D image is said to have individual voxels that contain a “single value reflecting the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal of a small region.”
In total, the researchers analyzed fMRI images of every region of the brains of around 892 American men and women. This enabled them to link greater entropy to the more versatile processing of information.
According to Glenn Saxe, a professor in child and adolescent psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine, what the team discovered is considered a key aspect of measuring intelligence.
“Our study offers the first solid evidence that functional MRI scans of brain entropy are a new means to understanding human intelligence.” -Glenn Saxe
“Human intelligence is so meaningful because it is about the capacity to understand whatever may come, when there is no way beforehand to know what may come. So, an intelligent brain has to be flexible in the number of possible ways its nerve cells, or neurons, may be rearranged. And that is what entropy is all about.”
Finding the Relationship Between Entropy and Intelligence
In their study, the researchers compared hundreds of brain imaging scans taken milliseconds apart. This revealed the number of possible combinations of electrically active brain cells that are available to interact with each other in certain areas of the brain.
After that, they used mathematical models that had been validated by previous studies to arrive at reliable, statistical entropy scores. Saxe believes that if brain entropy could provide better insight into intelligence, it should be compared closely with IQ scores. Apparently, most of the participants’ entropy scores were similar to their IQ.
Using standard statistical techniques performed in two different ways to ensure accuracy, the researchers discovered that the entropy scores closely matched the IQ scores from the Shipley-Hatford test for the left side of the middle brain related to speech learning.
The entropy scores also trailed closely with scores from the Wechsler test for the front region of the brain which is in charge of organization, planning, and emotional control.
Currently, Saxe and his team are still working on their research.
Should their study yield successful results, the researchers said that brain imaging of entropy could one day be used to assess problems with brain function. This includes people with depression, autism, or even post-traumatic stress disorder. The hope is that brain entropy explains why processing certain information becomes difficult in these cases.