Voxel-based morphometry and stereology provide convergent evidence of the importance of medial prefrontal cortex for fluid intelligence in healthy adults.
We investigated whether a relationship exists between frontal lobe volume and fluid intelligence as measured by both Cattell's Culture Fair test and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised (WAIS-R) Performance scale, but not with crystallized intelligence as measured by the WAIS-R Verbal scale, in healthy adults, using two well-established image analysis techniques applied to high-resolution MR brain images. Firstly, using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), we investigated whether a significant relationship exists between gray matter concentration and fluid intelligence on a voxel-by-voxel basis. Secondly, we applied the Cavalieri method of modern design stereology in combination with point counting to investigate possible relationships between macroscopic volumes of relevant brain regions defined as dorsolateral, dorsomedial, orbitolateral, and orbitomedial prefrontal cortex on the basis of neuroanatomical landmarks, and fluid intelligence. We also examined the effect on these relationships of normalizing regional brain volumes to intracranial volume. VBM analysis revealed a positive correlation between gray matter concentration in the medial region of prefrontal cortex and Culture Fair scores (corrected for multiple comparisons), and also WAIS-R Performance Intelligence sum of scaled scores (SSS) (uncorrected for multiple comparisons before controlling for age, and this converges with the stereological finding of the positive correlation between volume of dorsomedial prefrontal cortex normalized to intracranial volume and Culture Fair scores after controlling for age. WAIS-R Verbal Intelligence SSS showed no correlations. We interpret our findings, from independent analyses of both VBM and stereology, as evidence of the importance of medial prefrontal cortex in supporting fluid intelligence.