Monday, 19 October 2009

Web Surfing, Transsexuality, Schizophrenia, and the Frontal Gyrus

From Fox News:
Adults with little Internet experience show changes in their brain activity after just one week online, a new study finds.

The results suggest Internet training can stimulate neural activation patterns and could potentially enhance brain function and cognition in older adults.

As the brain ages, a number of structural and functional changes occur, including atrophy, or decay, reductions in cell activity and increases in complex things like deposits of amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which can impact cognitive function.

Research has shown that mental stimulation similar to the stimulation that occurs in individuals who frequently use the Internet may affect the efficiency of cognitive processing and alter the way the brain encodes new information.

"We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function," Dr. Gary Small, study author and professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, said in a statement.
The first scan of participants with little Internet experience showed brain activity in the regions controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities. The second brain scan of these participants, conducted after the home practice searches, demonstrated activation of these same regions, but there was also activity in the middle frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus – areas of the brain known to be important in working memory and decision-making.

From a previous post :
In a paper, published in Neuron, Dr. John Roder, Senior Investigator at the Lunenfeld, and Bechara Saab, Ph.D candidate at the Lunenfeld, studied the interaction of two proteins in a small region of the brain called the dentate gyrus (part of the hippocampus, which plays a role in long-term memory and spatial navigation).

For the study, the neuronal calcium sensor-1 (NCS-1), a protein which is known to affect the memory of worms and is linked to bipolar and schizophrenia in people, was increased by one-and-a-half fold specifically in the dentate gyrus of mouse models. This modest overexpression increased the ability of brain cells to change how they communicate with each other and gave the mice superior memory in complex tasks and a significant increase in exploratory behaviour (curiosity).

And another :
...we detected significant differences between MTF transsexuals, males, and females in a large number of regions across the brain. More specifically, within the frontal lobe, we observed gray matter volume differences bilaterally in the superior frontal gyrus, close to midline and also at the frontal pole, as well as within the right orbital gyrus.
There have been studies that have indicated up to a 30-point increase in IQ for Trans people compared to the general population. I'm not sure how reliable these studies are, and the difference is statistical anyway: people differ. However, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that TS people are not just over-represented, but grossly over-represented, in certain professions, in particular those involving both creative and logical thinking. How much of this is due to ostracism at school leading to a concentration on schoolwork (and consequent advantage in professions later), and how much due to neurology is a matter for conjecture. Given so many TS people drop out of school due to persecution, it's even possible that the effect of atypical neurology is masked to some degree.

Note also the possible connection with schizophrenia. We know that this is associated with creativity so enormous that it becomes pathological, seeing things that are not there. We also know that schizophrenia is associated with a "de-sexing" of the brain, where the sexually differentiated areas become closer to a mean between the sexes.

Anyway, these are mere signs and portents, and may be of no significance. They do suggest fruitful lines of research to pursue though. Every nugget of knowledge we mine from Mother nature's lode starts as a mere conjecture, before experimentation reveals it.


Battybattybats said...

Wow.. a 30 point increase?

On bad days that still leaves me down with CFS/ME/FM brain-fog dropping IQ by up to 40 points, but it may well explain how I still manage except when the brain fog hits specific areas of cognition badly when they are unavoidably required.

The thing that strikes me most strongly about such research is, if it pans out, gives a specific advantage to having transgender people in the workforce and the family.

It not only adds a direct positive advantage to a transgender gene beyond the kin-selection advantage...

It also is a degree of societal currnecy to counter the false negative stereotypes. Its a piece of data with substantial rhetorical power as well as reason for employing transgender workers.

Dutch said...
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I R A Genius said...

Speaking as a person so bland as to be nearly invisible--non TS, non gay, same color, creed and accent as the people around me, etc--I can tell you that having a high IQ (155 in my case) might be great for some things, but if your coworkers aren't high IQ themselves, they will probably be somewhat uncomfortable with you. Having a genius work for you is great; but with you is different.

Which is not to say that you shouldn't use every advantage you've got.

Zoe Brain said...

I'm no genius - but I do work with some who are, and I do have some talents that mean I can fake it.

I'm a polymath, and people assume that because I have a superficial knowledge of far more than they do, that I must be an expert in every area except for theirs.

As my PhD supervisor told me, everyone assumed that the reason I was a bit unusual before transition was because I was bright, not because I was TS/IS.

It was only after my appearance changed that they realised that I'd always had typically female - though not terribly feminine - mannerisms and speech patterns.

The most surprising and really quite funny thing to them was how little I changed, yet now it all fitted. How obvious it was in hindsight, yet no-one suspected.

Lloyd Flack said...

I'd noticed several unusual bits of behaviour and knew of some physiological oddities long before your metabolic upset. Some of them simply puzzled me and some I guessed wrongly about the explanation. When your changes occurred things fitted together in a simpler more complete pattern

Christine said...

Can I get a link to the TS IQ studies?