Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, 201-211 (March 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrn2793

The neuroscience of human intelligence differences

See also: Correspondence by Houdé

Ian J. Deary1,2, Lars Penke1,2 & Wendy Johnson1,2  About the authors


Neuroscience is contributing to an understanding of the biological bases of human intelligence differences. This work is principally being conducted along two empirical fronts: genetics — quantitative and molecular — and brain imaging. Quantitative genetic studies have established that there are additive genetic contributions to different aspects of cognitive ability — especially general intelligence — and how they change through the lifespan. Molecular genetic studies have yet to identify reliably reproducible contributions from individual genes. Structural and functional brain-imaging studies have identified differences in brain pathways, especially parieto-frontal pathways, that contribute to intelligence differences. There is also evidence that brain efficiency correlates positively with intelligence.

Author affiliations

  1. Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH4 2EE, Scotland, UK.
  2. All authors contributed equally to the work.

Correspondence to: Ian J. Deary1,2 Email:

Published online 10 February 2010


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