Are fish the key to intelligence?

Posted on March 24, 2014



The brain is the most complex organised system in the universe. It is the means by which think, by which we coordinate ourselves when we write an essay or run a race and collectively; our brains are the means by which we make sense of the universe and even our own brains.

Developing our understanding of how the brain works is the job of neuroscientists. If we can get to grips with the brain, we can develop the means to successfully treat brain disorders or even interact with our brains in some way that we enhance our perceptions of the world.

One neuroscientist, Professor John Stein, has spent his research career investigating treatments for brain disorders, including Parkinson’s Disease. His findings were the subject of his recent lecture, given at Portsmouth High School. The lecture gave an insight into the progress made in neuroscience so far and the potential that is yet to be realised. So, what do we know about the brain and what will we know in the future?

1. 50% genes, 50% environment. The connections in your brain and your intelligence is determined half and half by your genes and the environment in which you develop and live in. So, we can all improve 50% of our intelligence!

2. The brain is organised into areas which have specific roles. Further to just knowing the brain’s basic make-up, neuroscientists have now highlighted areas in the brain that are involved in different processes. So, for example, we know what areas of the brain are involved in sight, or in moral decision making, or in reading. We can then look at differences in these regions between brains, particularly in people with learning difficulties, or brain disorders to work out what causes them.

3. We can target these areas with treatments. Whilst we may not always understand the complexities of how each area of the brain works and the mechanisms behind thought and why things may go wrong, we have been able to target these areas and have discovered treatments that really work. Deep Brain Stimulation is one of these treatments and it is currently being trialled by Professor John Stein. It involves stimulating the appropriate region of the brain with electrical pulses, with encouraging effects. For one man with Parkinson’s Disease, the treatment provided major improvements to his tremor. The treatment is currently very expensive, but has promise for the future.

4. In the future, treatments may be less intrusive. Deep Brain Stimulation may seem an intrusive treatment as it involves insertion of a medical device called a brain pacemaker into the brain. Potentially, we may be able to stimulate the brain using an external helmet and the use of ultrasound. It is along way off, but promising none the less.

5. On a simpler note, if you want a healthy brain, eat more fish. Oily fish that contain large amounts of Omega 3 have shown improvements to intelligence in all kinds of brains. It works by increasing the ability of neurons to control the movement of charged ions into and out of these cells, making the process of sending signals more efficient (as the electrical impulses are created by the movement of charged ions). Remember, 50% of your own intelligence is determined by your own actions. So take care of your brain: eat more fish, drink less alcohol and do more Sudoku!

So, in answer to the question are fish the key to intelligence? Yes, or at least 50% of it anyway!

Omega 3

 Omega 3.

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