Introduction | Interviews | Research | Survey | Reading | Conclusion

Basic Biology and Human Neurophysiology

There are several aspects of biology and human neurophysiology that are referred to in our research.

First, the concept of genes and DNA should not be foreign to anyone, but just in case: DNA is a long double-helix-shaped molecule that resides within the nucleus of all normal cells within the human body. The DNA contains sequences of molecules that can be "read" by parts of the cell (ribosomes) and a protein can be assembled based on the code in the DNA. According to the deterministic theory, these proteins can have regulatory affects on every aspect of our lives, and, therefore, our genes have ultimate control of our lives. However, most believe that the environment has very great effects on how these proteins behave within our bodies, and our genes cannot control this aspect of our lives.

Also, some basic knowledge of how the human brain works would be useful. The average male human brian weighs about 1400 grams. The brain and spinal cord make up the Central Nervous System (CNS), and are composed of two basic types of cells. The first and more numerous are the neuroglia, which are the support cells of the CNS. It is believed that they provide nourishment to the other cells in the CNS, but they have other functions as well.

The other cells of the CNS are the information processing cells, the neurons. A very basic neuron would consist of a cell body, several dendrites, and an axon. The dendrites are the "inputs" of the cell and the axon is the "output." The cell receives messages (electrical impulses) from other cells via its dendrites, and then, based on the strength of the messages, "decides" whether or not to send its own message down its axon, which is connected to the dendrites of other neurons.

Intelligence Testing and g

In the world of intelligence testing, there are basically two opposing viewpoints. One is the deterministic view of intelligence, which states that there is a measurable aspect of the mind (called g, for general intelligence), that reflects the overall intelligence of the person. Proponents of this theory tend to believe that g is completely quantifiable, and that it is heritable from mother-to-offspring.

There are actually several opposing theories, but all hold the same basic ideas: that intelligence is not quantifiable by a number, that it is not chiefly genetic, but rather more environmental, and that it is therefore not nearly as heritable as something like hair color.

A Question of Genius

While many believe that most of the variation in intelligence is due to environmental differences, we feel that environment cannot account for all of the variation in intelligence. Extremely brilliant people, geniuses, seem to be destined for greatness in a certain area and often perform extraordinary feats in areas in which they have little or no prior experience. For example, Mozart was composing pieces on the harpsichord when he was only 4 years old, and he could frequently compose a piece without making a single mistake in his transcription (having had no experience with a piece that he was just writing at that time).

Our hypothesis is that there is an aspect of genius which is highly innate. This may be a result of a genetic mutation that allows the neurons in the CNS to fire more efficiently, or to connect in a different way. It could also be something involved in the way that the CNS of a genius develops when he or she is a small child, since many geniuses are very young.

However, geniuses are not limited to just science or art, but can extend to all reaches of the human experience. If there can be such a thing as an athletic genius or a interpersonal genius, then these different aspects cannot be condensed into a single overarching g. Therefore, either geniuses are exempt from the limits that g places on "normal" people, or g does not exist in the first place.

Above all, it seems that geniuses are in a separate category from those who are simply "smart" or perform well on IQ tests. We believe this will be shown through research on autistic-savants, who lack the cultural familiarity and general knowledge to perform well on an IQ test, but who can perform incredible feats of mathematical or artistic genius.

Further Reading

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Introduction by Nathan Ainslie