The brains of people with a high level of general knowledge are particularly efficiently networked. This was demonstrated by neuroscientists at the German Ruhr University Bochum and Humboldt-University of Berlin using magnetic resonance imaging.
"Although we can precisely measure people's general knowledge, and this wealth of knowledge is very important for their individual lives, we still know very little about the connections between general knowledge and brain functions," says Dr. Erhan Genç from the Bochum Unit for Biopsychology. The team describes the results in the European Journal of Personality.
The researchers examined the brains of 324 men and women with a special form of magnetic resonance imaging called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). With the help of mathematical calculations, the researchers assigned an individual value to the brain of the participants, which reflected the efficiency of this structural networking.
In addition, the test subjects completed a general knowledge test developed in Bochum by Dr. Rüdiger Hossiep, known as the Bochum Knowledge Test (in German: Bochumer Wissenstest). It comprises more than 300 questions from different fields of knowledge ranging from art to architecture, biology, and chemistry. Most recently, Erhan Genç's team investigated whether the efficiency of structural networking is associated with the amount of stored general knowledge.
The result: people with a very efficient fiber network had more general knowledge than those with a less efficient structural network.
"We assume that individual knowledge contents are scattered across the entire brain in the form of partial information," explains Erhan Genç. "In order to combine the information stored in different brain areas and successfully retrieve knowledge content, efficient networking of the brain is indispensable.
For example, in order to answer the question of which constant occurs in Einstein's theory of relativity, one must combine the meaning of the term "constant" with the knowledge of the theory of relativity. "We assume that a more efficient structural networking of the brain contributes to better integration of partial information and thus leads to better results in a general knowledge test," says the Bochum researcher.