Developmental instability and the neural dynamics of the speed-intelligence relationship. Academic Article uri icon


  • Two of the most securely established findings in the biology of intelligence are the relationship between reaction time (RT) and intelligence, and the heritability of intelligence. To investigate why RT may related to intelligence, researchers have used a variety of techniques to subdivide RT into cognitive and motor components. In the current study, magnetoencephalographic (MEG) dipole latencies were used to examine the speed and timing of specific brain processing stages engaged during visually cued simple and choice reaction time tasks. Simple and choice reaction time and timing of MEG sources were considered in relation to fluid intelligence (as measured by the Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices, RAPM). To address heritability of intelligence, developmental instability (DI) was assessed, measured here as fluctuating asymmetry. DI represents the degree to which an organism is susceptible to developmental stress arising from both environmental and genomic sources. Analyses showed that choice, but not simple reaction time was negatively correlated with RAPM score. MEG revealed a set of complex relationships between the timing of regional brain activations and psychometric intelligence. The neural component associated with integration of sensory and motor information was most associated with RAPM compared to other components. Higher values of fluctuating asymmetry predicted reduced psychometric intelligence, a result suggesting that some part of the variance of the heritability of intelligence reflects DI. Fluctuating asymmetry was significantly and negatively correlated with timing during all components of task completion. These observations suggest that fluid intelligence is primarily related to speed during processing associated with decision time, while fluctuating asymmetry predicted slower processing across all stages of information processing.

publication date

  • September 2006