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Study: Teens' IQ may fluctuate over time

Parents, you may be onto something: A small new study suggests that teens' intelligence, as measured by the IQ test, may fluctuate throughout adolescence. The changes -- in both verbal and nonverbal IQ -- ranged to as much as 20 points and were correlated with specific brain areas.

IQ has long been thought to remain stable over a person's lifetime. The findings are published online Oct. 19 in the journal Nature.

The new findings might have implications for kids' educations, the researchers said, because they suggest that children, especially those with lower IQs, should not be pigeonholed into specific educational and career trajectories based on their IQ alone.

"Approximately one-fifth of our sample had very substantial changes such that they moved from above average to below average or vice versa," said Cathy Price, senior study author and professor at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, U.K.This is NOT a real x ray.

The take-home message, according to one expert,
is that intelligence may not be as "fixed" in adolescence as once thought.

According to the study authors, prior studies have shown changes in IQ in individuals over time, but those studies hadn't been able to rule out the possibility of chance.

In their research, Price and her colleagues measured the IQs of 33 individuals aged 12 to 16 in 2004. They performed MRI brain imaging of the adolescents' brains at the same time.

Four years later, the same group of individuals, now between 15 and 20 years old, were tested and underwent additional MRI scans.

From Average to Gifted...
The team report that changes in IQ did seem to occur, with some participants improving their scores by as much as 20 points over time, relative to people of similar age, while other kids saw declines in IQ levels.

"A change in 20 points is a huge difference," Price said in a statement to the media. For example, she said, "if an individual moved from an IQ of 110 to an IQ of 130 they move from being 'average' to 'gifted.' And if they moved from 104 to 84 they move from being high average to below average.

According to Price, that could have implications for adolescents' education, since it suggests that intellectual ability changes over time.

The fluctuations seemed correlated to changes in certain brain areas, with verbal IQ (such as might be used in language and math) corresponding to a different part of the brain than nonverbal changes (involving visual questions).

In the media statement, Price explained that "the degree to which verbal IQ changed correlated with the degree to which brain structure changed in an area of the brain that we are referring to as a 'motor speech area.' " She added that this region, the brain's left motor cortex, "is very active when we (including the participants in our study) articulate speech."

Nonverbal performance correlated to changes in the anterior cerebellum, which is also activated when making hand movements, Price noted.This isn't real either.

The authors don't know yet what is driving these variations in IQ over time.

Why?
"It could either be an active environmental effect (such as education/learning ) or it could relate to developmental differences (late developers/early developers) or it could be both," Price said in an interview. "This is the classic nature/nurture debate. I am pretty sure that there is a strong environmental effect because we know that the adult brain changes with learning. In this case, intensive training causes brain changes."

The take-home message, according to one expert, is that intelligence may not be as "fixed" in adolescence as once thought.

"The brain is clearly, at least in the teenage years, more plastic and amenable to change," said Paul Sanberg, distinguished professor of neurosurgery and director of the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa. "The real question is, does this continue into adulthood? Is this reflective of changes we now see in plasticity in the brain in adulthood? The data is suggesting that things can get better."

It's not just for young people!
Price hasn't yet measured whether or not IQ changes in adults, "but my guess would be yes, because intensive skill training in adults causes brain changes."

However, another expert cautioned that the study did have some limitations. Michael Carey is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

He believes that some of the IQ tests used in the study were outdated, nor did they take into account other factors, such as age, gender or whether a person is right-handed or left-handed when identifying brain structures related to the change.

"It's a relatively small sample and pretty selective. The average IQs are above average, even though there's a lot of variation," said Carey, who is also a psychologist with Scott & White, in Temple. "The question is, how representative is this of natural day-to-day adolescence?"

By Amanda Gardner, HealthDay

On the Web:
www.nimh.nih.gov/media/video/giedd.shtml, the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on the developing brain.

 

We're Talkin' Death Here People!
Teens Sleep Needs and Patterns

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have identified adolescents and young adults (ages 12 to 25 years) as a population at high risk for problem sleepiness based on "evidence that the prevalence of problem sleepiness is high and increasing with particularly serious consequences." (NIH, 1997) This designation evolved from a Working Group on Problem Sleepiness convened in 1997 by NIH's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research and the Office of Prevention, Education, and Control. The group concluded that steps must be taken to reduce the risks associated with problem sleepiness.

What are these risks? The most troubling consequences of sleepiness are injuries and deaths related to lapses in attention and delayed response times at critical moments, such as while driving. Drowsiness or fatigue has been identified as a principle cause in at least 100,000 police-reported traffic crashes each year, killing more than 1,500 Americans and injuring another 71,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, 1994). Young drivers age 25 or under are involved in more than one-half of fall-asleep crashes.

The National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) Sleep And Teens Task Force developed this report to summarize existing research about sleep-related issues affecting adolescents. We hope that this report will serve as a valuable and practical resource for parents, educators, community leaders, adolescents and others in their efforts to make informed decisions regarding health, safety and sleep-related issues within their communities.

A nonprofit, private organization, NSF is a leader in public education efforts regarding the risks associated with drowsy driving and other issues related to sleepiness and sleep loss. We welcome your comments about this report and your suggestions for expanding public awareness and supporting positive changes to protect the safety and well-being of our nation's youth.

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/hot-topics/adolescent-sleep-needs-and-patterns

 
The Secret to a Higher IQ:

In recent years, scientists have determined that experience can readily alter the brain, as networks of neural synapses bloom in response to activity or wither with disuse. Expert musicians, circus jugglers and London cab drivers studying mapsóeven Colombian guerillas learning to readóhave all shown brain changes linked to practice, several brain imaging studies have reported.

But until now, researchers had considered general intelligence too basic to be affected by such relatively small neural adjustments. Dr. Price and her colleagues don't know what caused the changes in both the brain and the scores they documented, but speculated they could be a result of learning experiences.

"An important aspect of the results is that cognitive abilities can increase or decrease," said Oklahoma State University psychometrician Robert Sternberg, a past president of the American Psychological Association who wasn't part of the study. "Those who are mentally active will likely benefit. The couch potatoes among us who do not exercise themselves intellectually will pay a price."

Imagine this space filled with something creative: