The Relationship Between General Intelligence and Cortical Structure in Healthy Individuals

Sahil Bajaj, Adam Raikes, Ryan Smith, Natalie S. Dailey, Anna Alkozei, John R. Vanuk, William D.S. Killgore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Considerable work in recent years has examined the relationship between cortical thickness (CT) and general intelligence (IQ) in healthy individuals. It is not known whether specific IQ variables (i.e., perceptual reasoning [PIQ], verbal comprehension IQ [VIQ], and full-scale IQ [FSIQ]) are associated with multiple cortical measures (i.e., CT, cortical volume (CV), cortical surface area (CSA) and cortical gyrification (CG)) within the same individuals. Here we examined the association between these neuroimaging metrics and IQ in 56 healthy adults. At a cluster-forming threshold (CFT) of p < 0.05, we observed significant positive relationships between CT and all three IQ variables in regions within the posterior frontal and superior parietal lobes. Regions within the temporal and posterior frontal lobes exhibited positive relationships between CV and two IQ variables (PIQ and FSIQ) and regions within the inferior parietal lobe exhibited positive relationships between CV and PIQ. Additionally, CV was positively associated with VIQ in the left insula and with FSIQ within the inferior frontal gyrus. At a more stringent CFT (p < 0.01), the CT–PIQ, CT–VIQ, CT–FSIQ, and CV–PIQ relationships remained significant within the posterior frontal lobe, as did the CV–PIQ relationship within the temporal and inferior parietal lobes. We did not observe statistically significant relationships between IQ and either CSA or CG. Our findings suggest that the neural basis of IQ extends beyond previously observed relationships with fronto-parietal regions. We also conclude that CT and CV may be more useful metrics than CSA or CG in the study of intellectual abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Sep 15 2018


  • brain structure–function
  • cortical measures
  • full-scale IQ
  • intelligence
  • perceptual reasoning
  • verbal comprehension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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