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A neural basis for general intelligence.

Universal positive correlations between different cognitive tests motivate the concept of "general intelligence" or Spearman's g. Here the neural basis for g is investigated by means of positron emission tomography. Spatial, verbal, and perceptuo-motor tasks with high-g involvement are compared with matched low-g control tasks. In contrast to the common view that g reflects a broad sample of major cognitive functions, high-g tasks do not show diffuse recruitment of multiple brain regions. Instead they are associated with selective recruitment of lateral frontal cortex in one or both hemispheres. Despite very different task content in the three high-g-low-g contrasts, lateral frontal recruitment is markedly similar in each case. Many previous experiments have shown these same frontal regions to be recruited by a broad range of different cognitive demands. The results suggest that "general intelligence" derives from a specific frontal system important in the control of diverse forms of behavior.

Pubmed ID: 10903207


  • Duncan J
  • Seitz RJ
  • Kolodny J
  • Bor D
  • Herzog H
  • Ahmed A
  • Newell FN
  • Emslie H


Science (New York, N.Y.)

Publication Data

July 21, 2000

Associated Grants


Mesh Terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Recruitment, Neurophysiological
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed