The neural basis of intelligence in fine-grained cortical topographies

Elife. 2021 Mar 8;10:e64058. doi: 10.7554/eLife.64058.


Intelligent thought is the product of efficient neural information processing, which is embedded in fine-grained, topographically organized population responses and supported by fine-grained patterns of connectivity among cortical fields. Previous work on the neural basis of intelligence, however, has focused on coarse-grained features of brain anatomy and function because cortical topographies are highly idiosyncratic at a finer scale, obscuring individual differences in fine-grained connectivity patterns. We used a computational algorithm, hyperalignment, to resolve these topographic idiosyncrasies and found that predictions of general intelligence based on fine-grained (vertex-by-vertex) connectivity patterns were markedly stronger than predictions based on coarse-grained (region-by-region) patterns. Intelligence was best predicted by fine-grained connectivity in the default and frontoparietal cortical systems, both of which are associated with self-generated thought. Previous work overlooked fine-grained architecture because existing methods could not resolve idiosyncratic topographies, preventing investigation where the keys to the neural basis of intelligence are more likely to be found.

Keywords: cortical topography; fMRI; functional connectivity; human; hyperalignment; individual differences; intelligence; neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Cerebral Cortex* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Intelligence / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nerve Net* / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net* / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.