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Can Genius be Linked to Uterine Exposure of Higher Levels of Hormones?

Formal portrait of Albert Einstein taken in 1935 at Princeton. The photo was published a few times, the earliest one found was in a newspaper in 1955 (A.P. Wirephoto). None of the sources indicate any copyright or other details. The original uncropped photo is inscribed to the photographer, Sophie Delar. A copyright search found nothing related was renewed for the period required based on the earliest known publication date of 1955. This is a Public Domain photo; Wikipedia Commons


A longstanding debate as to whether genius is a byproduct of good 1) ____ or good environment has an upstart challenger that may take the discussion in an entirely new direction. University of Alberta researcher Marty Mrazik says being bright may be due to an excess level of a natural hormone. Mrazik, a professor in the Faculty of Education’s educational psychology department, and a colleague from Rider University in the U.S., have published a paper in Roeper Review linking giftedness (having an IQ score of 130 or higher) to prenatal exposure of higher levels of testosterone. Mrazik hypothesizes that, in the same way that physical and cognitive deficiencies can be developed in 2) ___, so, too, could similar exposure to this naturally occurring chemical result in giftedness. “There seems to be some evidence that excessive prenatal exposure to 3) ___ facilitates increased connections in the brain, especially in the right prefrontal cortex,“ said Mrazik. “That’s why we see some intellectually gifted people with distinct personality characteristics that you don’t see in the normal population.“ Mrazik’s notion came from observations made during clinical assessments of gifted individuals. He and his fellow researcher observed some specific traits among the subjects. This finding stimulated a conversation on the role of early development in setting the foundation for giftedness. “It gave us some interesting ideas that there could be more to this notion of genius being predetermined from a biological perspective than maybe people gave it credit for,“ said Mrazik. “It seemed that the bulk of evidence from new technologies (such as Functional 4) ___ scans) tell us that there’s a little bit more going on than a genetic versus environmental interaction.“


Based on their observations, the researchers made the hypothesis that this hormonal “glitch“ in the in-utero neurobiological development means that gifted children are born with an affinity for certain areas such as the arts, math or science. Mrazik cautions that more research is needed to determine what exact processes may cause the development of the gifted 5) ___. He notes that more is known about what derails the brain’s normal development, thus charting what makes gifted people gifted is very much a new frontier. Mrazik hopes that devices such as the Functional MRI scanner will give them a deeper understanding of the role of neurobiology in the development of the gifted brain. “It’s really hard to say what does put the brain in a pathway where it’s going to be much more precocious,“ he said. “The next steps in this research lay in finding out what exact 6) ___ causes this atypical brain development.“  The group benefits of intelligence (including language, the ability to communicate between individuals, the ability to teach others, and other cooperative aspects) have apparent utility in increasing the survival potential of a group.


Higher cognitive functioning develops better in an environment with adequate nutrition. Diets deficient in iron, zinc, protein, iodine, B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium and other nutrients can result in lower intelligence either in the 7) ___ during pregnancy or in the child during development. While these inputs did not have an effect on the evolution of intelligence they do govern its expression. A higher intelligence could be a signal that an individual comes from and lives in a physical and social environment where nutrition levels are high, whereas a lower intelligence could imply a child, its mother, or both, come from a physical and social environment where nutritional levels are low. 8) ___ factors, especially meat and shellfish consumption, contribute to elevations of dopaminergic activity in the brain, which may have been responsible for the evolution of human intelligence since dopamine is crucial to working memory, cognitive shifting, abstract, distant concepts, and other hallmarks of advanced intelligence. There is no universally accepted definition of intelligence. One definition is “the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas and language, and learn.“ The evolution of hominid intelligence can be traced over its course for the past 10 million years, and attributed to specific environmental challenges. It is a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, however, to see this as a necessary process, and an even greater misunderstanding to see it as one directed to a particular outcome. There are primate species which have not 9) ___ any greater degree of intelligence than they had 10 million years ago: this is because their particular environment has not demanded this particular adaptation of them. Intelligence as an adaptation to the challenge of natural selection is no better or worse than any other adaptation, such as the speed of the cheetah or the venomous bite of the cobra. Human intelligence appears to be, however, the only adaptation which has allowed a species to establish complete domination over the rest of the natural world. Whether our species has yet acquired sufficient 10) ___ to manage this responsibility is a matter for debate. Source: University of Alberta; Martin Mrazik, Stefan Dombrowski. The Neurobiological Foundations of Giftedness. Roeper Review, 2010; 32 (4): 224 DOI: 10.1080/02783193.2010.508154; Wikipedia; ScienceDaily.com


ANSWERS: 1) genes; 2) utero; 3) testosterone; 4) MRI; 5) brain; 6) stimuli; 7) mother; 8) Nutritional; 9) evolved; 10) intelligence



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