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The Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory (P-FIT) of intelligence: Converging neuroimaging evidence

  • Rex E. Jung (a1) and Richard J. Haier (a2)


“Is there a biology of intelligence which is characteristic of the normal human nervous system?” Here we review 37 modern neuroimaging studies in an attempt to address this question posed by Halstead (1947) as he and other icons of the last century endeavored to understand how brain and behavior are linked through the expression of intelligence and reason. Reviewing studies from functional (i.e., functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography) and structural (i.e., magnetic resonance spectroscopy, diffusion tensor imaging, voxel-based morphometry) neuroimaging paradigms, we report a striking consensus suggesting that variations in a distributed network predict individual differences found on intelligence and reasoning tasks. We describe this network as the Parieto-Frontal Integration Theory (P-FIT). The P-FIT model includes, by Brodmann areas (BAs): the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BAs 6, 9, 10, 45, 46, 47), the inferior (BAs 39, 40) and superior (BA 7) parietal lobule, the anterior cingulate (BA 32), and regions within the temporal (BAs 21, 37) and occipital (BAs 18, 19) lobes. White matter regions (i.e., arcuate fasciculus) are also implicated. The P-FIT is examined in light of findings from human lesion studies, including missile wounds, frontal lobotomy/leukotomy, temporal lobectomy, and lesions resulting in damage to the language network (e.g., aphasia), as well as findings from imaging research identifying brain regions under significant genetic control. Overall, we conclude that modern neuroimaging techniques are beginning to articulate a biology of intelligence. We propose that the P-FIT provides a parsimonious account for many of the empirical observations, to date, which relate individual differences in intelligence test scores to variations in brain structure and function. Moreover, the model provides a framework for testing new hypotheses in future experimental designs.



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