Are smarter brains running faster? Heritability of alpha peak frequency, IQ and their interrelation

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It has often been proposed that faster central nervous system (CNS) processing amounts to a smarter brain. One way to index speed of CNS processing is through the assessment of brain oscillations via electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings. The dominant frequency (peak frequency) with which neuronal feedback loops in an adult human brain oscillate in a relaxed state is around 10 cycles/sec, but large individual differences exist in peak frequencies. Earlier studies have found high peak frequencies to be associated with higher intelligence. In the present study, data from 271 extended twin families (688 participants) were collected as part of a large, ongoing project on the genetics of adult brain function and cognition. IQ was assessed with the Dutch version of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-IIIR), from which four dimensions were calculated (verbal comprehension, working memory, perceptual organization, and processing speed). Individual peak frequencies were picked according to the method described by Klimesch (1999) and averaged 9.9 Hz (SD 1.01). Structural equation modeling indicated that both peak frequency and the dimensions of IQ were highly heritable (range, 66% to 83%). A large part of the genetic variance in alpha peak frequency as well as in working memory and processing speed was due to nonadditive factors. There was no evidence of a genetic correlation between alpha peak frequency and any of the four WAIS dimensions: Smarter brains do not seem to run faster.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-579
Number of pages13
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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