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Dev Neuropsychol. 2010;35(3):296-317. doi: 10.1080/87565641003696833.

Associations between IQ, total and regional brain volumes, and demography in a large normative sample of healthy children and adolescents.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


In the course of efforts to establish quantitative norms for healthy brain development by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (Brain Development Cooperative Group, 2006), previously unreported associations of parental education and temporal and frontal lobe volumes with full scale IQ and its verbal and performance subscales were discovered. Our findings were derived from the largest, most representative MRI sample to date of healthy children and adolescents, ages 4 years 10 months to 18 years 4 months. We first find that parental education has a strong association with IQ in children that is not mediated by total or regional brain volumes. Second, we find that our observed correlations between temporal gray matter, temporal white matter and frontal white matter volumes with full scale IQ, between 0.14 to 0.27 in children and adolescents, are due in large part to their correlations with performance IQ and not verbal IQ. The volumes of other lobar gray and white matter, subcortical gray matter (thalamus, caudate nucleus, putamen, and globus pallidus), cerebellum, and brainstem do not contribute significantly to IQ variation. Third, we find that head circumference is an insufficient index of cerebral volume in typically developing older children and adolescents. The relations between total and regional brain volumes and IQ can best be discerned when additional variables known to be associated with IQ, especially parental education and other demographic measures, are considered concurrently.

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