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Now that neuroscientists have used maps of people’s brains to accurately predict intelligence, reality creeps ever so much closer to fiction.
By intelligence, in this case, the scientists mean abstract reasoning ability, which they inferred by mapping and analyzing the connections within people’s brains. But the study, published in Nature Neuroscience, is compelling because it gets at a fundamental and very uncomfortable truth: Some brains are better than others at certain things, simply because of the way they’re wired. And now, scientists are closer to being able to determine precisely which brains those are, and how they got that way.
Intelligence research is relatively young. But ask researchers about the future of the field, and they get science fiction-y fast. “In the future, WIRED could put job applicants in an MRI scanner and look at their functional connections and determine if they’re going to be good writers,” Todd Constable, an author of the paper, says half-jokingly, as if that weren’t the most terrifying thing to say to a journalist. “It’s really early days, but that’s kind of the direction it’s headed.”
Richard Haier, an intelligence researcher at the University of California, Irvine, has some more serious, non-journalistic applications in mind: Eventually, he hopes, schools could scan children to see what sort of educational environment they’d thrive in, or determine who’s more prone to addiction, or screen prison inmates to figure out whether they’re violent or not.
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