Lua Yar talks about…

The neurobiology of intelligence

Where do people get the idea that intelligence has a biological basis? Oh yeah, from those geneticists, whose research has shown that intelligence levels can be inherited. One fairly new development for researching intelligence is through the conduction of brain imaging studies.

Recently, two neuroscientists by the names of Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine and Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico, compiled a review of 37 such intelligence imaging studies. With this data, and current neurobiology studies that indicate intelligence is a measure of how well information travels through the brain, Haier and Jung formulated what they call the Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory (P-FIT). This theory identifies the stations of the brain, chiefly found in the frontal and parietal lobes, that network to produce intelligent information processing. So, whether you are smart or stupid depends, in part, on differences in connections between, and composition of, specific areas of the brain.

Haier and Jung have made many contributions to intelligence research. They discovered that it is unlikely that a single “intelligence center” exists, as the regions of the brain related to general intelligence are dispersed throughout the brain. In another study, general intelligence levels between the sexes were determined to have essentially no disparity, and yet their neural structures are different, with women having more white matter and men having more gray. This indicates that intelligence levels are independent of brain design.

Of course, can all of this just be taken with a grain of salt, because how does one really measure intelligence?


Chris Clarke callously infected me with a meme. I’m supposed to answer these five questions.

An interesting animal I had

An interesting animal I ate

An interesting animal in the Museum

An interesting thing I did with or to an animal

An interesting animal in its natural habitat

My first thought was, “Dude! These are awfully personal questions. Why are you asking for these intimate details of my sex life?” But then I noticed that he brought up my little friend Snowball (you may not want to read that), and all of his stories were about non-human animals. Oh. Never mind. That’s completely different.

Or maybe not so different…

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This last week in Biochemistry

It’s been quite busy last week. Despite the Neurobiology class didn’t meet that week, my other classes kept my hands full. I blame it on two exams and a paper due during the week of Homecoming.

Since I don’t have any new thoughts on Neurobiology, let’s see what can be dug up from my Biochemistry class. For the lab, I wrote my paper of Desulforedoxen. Its job is reducing sulfates. You can look it up at JMol using “1DHG” as the code.

I found this protein very interesting. In class, we had learned about the driving forces for tertiary structure in proteins: H-bonding, hydrophobic/Vanderwal’s, salt bridges, and disulfide bonds between Cystine residues. Upon examining Desulforedoxen, I learned that Cystines were capable of more than just S-S bonding. With four Cystines clustered nearby each other in the tertiary structure, an iron atom sits tetrahedrally bonded to the four sulfurs. While I bet it is a major player in tertiary structure, it just reeks of active site. Since the transition metal, and its neighboring sulfurs, have ‘D’ orbitals, this looks like it’s capable of something that can’t easily be performed in a test tube.

I’ll be a lot of you already know that this can happen in proteins. For me, it was learning it by observation instead of in lecture, that was fun. Moments like that have made it well worth it to go into biology. It’s also cool how such lesser-used amino acids have more than one purpose that they can serve in cells.

Note: the article I read about this protein said that it had iron bonded to the sulfur. When I looked it up in JMol, it was instead bonded to mercury. Weird. An abstract of the article I used can be found here. Anyways, just washing my hands so I don’t fall victim to the inconsistencies-lynch-mob. Have a nice day.

A little more on the Bell debate

Now Matt Nisbet weighs in, and Mike Haubrich gives an amazing summary of not just what I said, but what I meant to say.

One thing I referred to I called the “science education extinction vortex”, and referred to this hastily drawn diagram:


My point was that we have all these forces working together to amplify a problem, and slapping some nice words on it to make people feel good about it all isn’t going to change things unless we actually commit to making substantive corrections to those institutionalized problems.

Sunday Sermon-Skit

THE SCENE: A circular room cut deep into stone; magma pits bubble left and right, all is lit by roaring torches that cast dark, flickering shadows. In the center, the Cephalopod Throne.

THE CAST: PZ Myers broods on his throne, chin on fist. He glowers at a horde of SUPPLICANTS, bowing and scraping before him. Many are speaking at once, but all have the same concern.


SUPPLICANT: “…Great Lord PZ…”

SUPPLICANT: “…Lord PZ, do you ever…”

SUPPLICANT: “…ever worry…”

SUPPLICANT: “…worry that your puissant and uncompromising godlessness might…”

SUPPLICANT: “…might frighten…”

SUPPLICANT: “…drive away…”

SUPPLICANT: “…terrify…”

SUPPLICANT: “…terrify the religious moderates?”


SUPPLICANT: “Perhaps you shouldn’t be so hard on the soft and unthreatening believers, who might also find goodness in science?”

SUPPLICANT: “Perhaps your atheism diminishes support for science education?”

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Important information from the pre-debate conversation!

I forgot to tell you all the most important gossip I heard at the Bell last night. I had a scant few minutes to talk to Jim Kakalios, who has gone all Hollywood on us, doing consulting work for the next big superhero blockbuster … Watchmen. Ooooh, all you geeks are saying, tell us more! I can’t. All I know is that Jim promises that it is excellent and true to the graphic novel. And as a fellow follower of the Code of the Thin Tweed Line, he cannot lie to a fellow academic. This will be something to look forward to.

I tried to pump him for more information, but Hollywood has locked him in with vicious threats — if he spills the beans, a tanned and toned starlet will show up at his door, pin him to a table with her pilates-firmed thighs, and carve out both his kidneys with her long glittery nails. He places his concerns for his kidneys above his loyalty to the the Thin Tweed Line, which is a little distressing.

Maybe I should pass Jim’s home phone number on to Harry Knowles.

I get email

My crank mail can be categorized into several categories. There are the short, barely literate splutterings of abuse; the weird rants and threats; the reiteration of long-dead creationist talking points (yeah, I get email where the writer thinks he’s trumped me by saying “If evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?”); and then there are the long, rambling lectures from deeply clueless individuals. I’m afraid this is one of the latter. I’ll understand if you fall asleep partway through.

By the way, the author actually sent this to me pre-formatted in Comic Sans. I’m also rather peeved that he’s sending me a letter addressed to Eugenie Scott.

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