Entries in IQ (9)


IQ Is Not Linked to Math Achievement, Researchers Say

Fuse/Getty Images(MUNICH, Germany) -- IQ may not be the only thing that determines how well students perform in math class.

Researchers studying school-age children in Germany have found that a higher IQ is associated with better math ability when the child is young, but IQ made no difference on the growth of achievement later on.

The researchers at the University of Munich and the University of Bielefeld assessed the math ability of more than 3,500 students in grades 5 to 10.  They looked at how factors such as study skills, level of motivation and intelligence impacted student achievement in mathematics over five years.

As it turns out, motivation and learning strategies played the most important role for math success. Students who felt confident were more motivated to use summary skills and make connections among given materials.

"Our study suggests that students' competencies to learn math involve factors that can be nurtured by education," said lead study author Kou Muayama, according to Science Daily. "Educational programs focusing on students' motivation and study skills could be an important way to advance their competency in math as well as in other subjects."

The study, published Thursday in the journal Child Development, highlights the importance of focusing on motivation and study skills to improve academic performance, even with children who might not perform well initially.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Maternal Hypertension Linked to Lower IQ

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- High blood pressure during pregnancy can cause low birth weight and early delivery, and a new study suggests it may have lasting effects on the baby's brain.

The Finnish study of nearly 400 men found that those born to hypertensive mothers scored an average of four points lower on cognitive tests later in life.

"Hypertensive disorders in pregnancy predict lower cognitive ability and greater cognitive decline over decades in the adult offspring," the authors wrote in their study, published Thursday in the journal Neurology.

One in 13 pregnant women has high blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health.  And while most of them will have healthy babies, hypertension can lead to preeclampsia -- the leading cause of fetal complications.

"It's a fairly serious problem and one we often have to manage in the field of high-risk obstetrics," said Dr. David Hackney of UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  "If a woman develops preeclampsia, the treatment is to deliver the baby.  But obviously you don't want to do that if it's too early."

Previous studies have linked preterm birth and low birth weight to low IQ in adulthood.  But the new study suggests high blood pressure may be the earlier instigator.

"Our results may also offer mechanistic insight into why short length of gestation and small body size at birth are linked with lower cognitive ability, as hypertensive disorders are among the key reasons for prematurity and intrauterine growth restriction," the authors wrote, adding that the "propensity toward lower cognitive ability has its origins in the prenatal period, when the majority of the development of brain structure and function occurs."

Although hypertension during pregnancy can be managed with certain drugs, Hackney said women of childbearing age should eat healthy and stay active to lower their risk.

"It's important to remain healthy through early life and maximize health prior to becoming pregnant," he said.

The National Institutes of Health also recommends limiting salt intake, maintaining a healthy body weight and getting good prenatal medical care.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teenage Marijuana Use May Hurt Future IQ

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Teenagers lighting joints may end up less bright, according to new research released Monday.

In a study of more than 1,000 adolescents in New Zealand, those who began habitually smoking marijuana before age 18 showed an eight-point drop in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38, a considerable decline. The average IQ is 100 points. A drop of eight points represents a fall from the 50th percentile to the 29th percentile in terms of intelligence.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, charted the IQ changes in participants over two decades.

Researchers tested the IQs of all of the study subjects at age 13 before any habitual marijuana use. They then split the study into five “waves” during which time they assessed cannabis use -- ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38. They again tested IQ at age 38. The authors also controlled for alcohol use, other drug use and education level.

The eight-point drop in IQ was found in subjects who started smoking in adolescence and persisted in “habitual smoking” -- that is, using cannabis at least four days per week -- in three or more of the five study waves.

People who started smoking in adolescence but used marijuana less persistently still had a hit to their IQ’s, but it was less pronounced than the group that used it early and persistently.

In contrast, those who never used marijuana at all gained nearly one IQ point on average.

Madeline Meier, lead researcher and a post-doctoral associate at Duke University, said that persistent use of marijuana in adolescence appeared to blunt intelligence, attention and memory. More persistent marijuana use was associated with greater cognitive decline.

“Collectively, these findings are consistent with speculation that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects,” Meier writes in the study.

Of particular worry is the permanence of these effects among people who began smoking marijuana in adolescence. Even after these subjects stopped using marijuana for a year, its adverse effects persisted and some neurological deficits remained. People who did not engage in marijuana smoking until after adolescence showed no adverse effects on intelligence.

Experts in child development said the reasons adolescents may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of marijuana may have to do with a substance called myelin. Myelin can be thought of as a kind of insulation for nerve cells in the brain that also helps speed brain signals along -- and in adolescent brains, the protective coating it forms is not yet complete.

The study appears to lend credence to “stoner” stereotypes in popular media. However, no previous studies can provide data for this phenomenon, since establishing whether a drop in IQ has actually occurred requires that a baseline IQ be obtained before a person ever started using marijuana.  This study did just that.

“[The findings] provide evidence for the actual -- rather than ideological and legal -- basis for concerns regarding cannabis use,” said Dessa Bergen-Cico, a assistant professor of public health, food studies and nutrition at Syracuse University.  “These findings reinforce recommendations on the importance of primary prevention, evidence based drug education and policy efforts targeting not only adolescents, but elementary age children before they start.”

Though the study was conducted among New Zealand young people, the findings could be extended to adolescents in the United States as well. According to statistics released in June by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American teenagers today are more likely to be using marijuana than tobacco products. Of particular worry is the attitude that marijuana is one of the more harmless drugs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Women Beat Men on IQ Tests for First Time

John Rowley/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research is providing an answer to the age-old, delicate question: who is smarter, men or women? A new study has come down on the feminine side of that argument, finding that women now score higher on IQ tests than men.

The author of the study, James Flynn, a New Zealand-based researcher known as an IQ testing expert, said that over the past century, women have lagged slightly behind men in IQ testing scores, at times by as much as five points. But now, Flynn said women have closed the gap and even inched ahead in this battle of the intelligent sexes.

“Over the last 100 years, everyone in the developing world has been gaining about three IQ points, but women have been gaining faster,” Flynn told ABC News. “This is the result of modernity. In every country where women have an equal chance of modernity, women have caught men [in IQ testing].”

Flynn has not yet published the results of his study, saving that for a book he will publish in September. But he told ABC News that he collected data from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Estonia, and Argentina on scores on a standard IQ test, called the Raven test. Each country tested at least 500 men and 500 women, most between the ages of 15 and 18, Flynn said.

“In all of those samples, women are the equal of men, perhaps scoring a half point or a point higher,” Flynn said.

The changes, Flynn said, can be explained by changes in opportunity and education that have come about in the last century -- for example, less reliance on rote memorization in education and an emphasis on improving logic and analytic skills.

“As we enter the modern worlds, our minds change just as our automobiles have changed,” Flynn said. “Where women can have an equal chance to interface with the modern world, they equal on IQ and surpass on academic performance.”

He said there is no reason those advantages shouldn’t go on to help women in the occupational and professional sphere, though there are other social factors affecting women’s success in those arenas.

Deciding which is the smarter sex is an ever-controversial topic of conversation and scientific research. Studies of animals and humans have found definite differences between males and females, in things like brain size, verbal and spatial abilities and brain disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia. It’s mostly unclear, though, how those differences translate to behavior.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


What's Your Health IQ? Experts Seek Better Communication with Patients

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- For more than a decade, Helen Osborne drafted health education material, but when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and her doctor gave her a printout that was supposed to help her understand her condition, she said she couldn't make heads or tails of it.

"I had no idea what I just read," said Osborne, who worked with a variety of medical centers and organizations, including the National Institutes of Health.

Osborne, 62, of Natick, Mass., reached out to her colleague at the National Cancer Institute to vent her frustration. She told her friend that she didn't understand why the printout recommended that she see numerous specialists, including a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist.

"Who exactly are these folks anyway?" she recalled asking her colleague.

"Well, Helen," she recalled her colleague say, "you wrote a whole booklet about this topic already."

Although Helen is highly educated and considered extremely literate, she is one of many Americans who, regardless of their education level, at times struggle to understand health information.

Nearly half of American adults, including doctors themselves, have poor health literacy, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine. Many struggle to understand instructions on prescription drug bottles, doctors' notes, health insurance forms, and educational brochures.

And many studies suggest that understanding health information could mean the difference between life and death.

As ABC News Radio reported Tuesday, surveyed heart failure patients who had low health literacy were more likely to die outside of a hospital setting than those who were considered health literate, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

But literacy and health literacy are not synonymous terms, said Osborne, who founded Health Literacy Consulting, LLC.

"If you're struggling to read, of course you'll have trouble with health information," she said

But health information is often hard to decipher on your own.

"The fact that I love Shakespeare does not mean I'll have good health," said Rima Rudd, senior lecturer on society, human development, and health at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The mistake in research has been to focus on skill level of patients rather than on the information presented to them."

The responsibility lies in large part with some health experts who don't effectively communicate health information with the patient, according to Rudd.

But it's also due in part to some patients who don't ask for clarification when they need it, Osborne said.

The hard-to-decipher medical information is also found on many pill bottles and medication boxes likely to be found in any medicine cabinet.

Words like "risk," "probability," "range," and "normal" are hardly ever defined -- even a simple line that asks you to take medication with "plenty" of water but doesn't specify what that means, or a line directing you to take a certain medication "four times daily" but doesn't specify when or how far to space out the dose can be a problem.

But many researchers, including Rudd, are implementing methods to help health experts better communicate with patients. One method, says Rudd, is to change the way experts ask questions. Simple questions like "Do you have any questions?" can turn to "How can I help answer your questions?"

"It's known as the teachback method -- actively creating an environment for questions and understanding," Rudd said.

Also, Rudd says health communicators should pilot test text material to see whether it's easily understandable among a test group.

"I think it's a criminal offense for anyone to write health information on managing your diabetes for example, not pilot test it and simply press the print button for all to have."

While researchers work to reform how health providers communicate, patients can take proactive steps to better understand medical information, Osborne said. It's a simple list of advice that she says she wish she'd known throughout her breast cancer diagnosis.

"Make sure you really understand what you're really supposed to do," she said. "Make sure you ask questions. Bring someone with you. Create a notebook."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Rado 


What's the Key to a High IQ? It May Be More Than You Think

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A high IQ score is a result of two factors, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania: high intelligence and a high motivation to take tests.

A low IQ, the study’s authors found, could result from a lack of any of the two factors.

Researchers concluded that relying on IQ scores as a measure of intelligence alone could be misleading.

Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Linked to Low IQ Later in Life

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Expectant mothers exposed to agricultural chemicals could be putting their babies' cognitive development at risk, according to new research published Thursday as three independent studies in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The latest research links prenatal pesticide exposure (measured in the urine of mothers-to-be) to a lower IQ in children by age nine.  The research teams, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the school of public health at the University of California, Berkeley, all conclude that pesticide exposure during pregnancy could negatively affect brain development.

But a lack of controlled trials, for obvious reasons, makes it impossible to determine whether there is cause and effect.

"The biggest problem with these studies is they attempt to demonstrate an association when there has not yet been a mechanism identified that would explain how pesticides cause any of the abnormalities," said Dr. Donna Seger, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of the Tennessee Poison Center.  "Because pesticide exposure and abnormal developmental occur in a specific patient population does not mean that one caused the other."

So-called "association studies" infuriate Ali Bergstrom -- a 34-year-old New York City-based blogger whose son was born with a rare birth defect called Goldenhar syndrome -- who said it's devastating to have a child who is disabled because of something that happened in the womb.

"When these studies come out and they say it's association and not cause and effect, it's very frustrating as a mother because I know something caused this.  It infuriates me."

But the three studies, which used different subjects and methods but arrived at similar conclusions, should raise a red flag that widely-used chemicals may have serious health consequences for unborn babies, according to Dr. Rodney Dietert, professor of immunotoxicology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

"Taken together, these studies are an alarm that signals we have underestimated the risk from low level prenatal exposures to certain environmental chemicals," Dietert said.  "It seems clear that our current methods and applications for identifying environmental risks posed to critical physiological systems of children are inadequate."

Dietert is pushing for better safety testing to avoid surprises, such as the findings reported Thursday, years down the road.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kids' Eating Habits Affect IQ, Researchers Say

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BRISTOL, England) -- An English study found that children who eat a diet high in fat, sugar-processed foods around the age of three show small decreases in IQ as they become older.

In the study of almost 4,000 children, the increase of processed dietary patterns could be associated with a 1.67-point decrease in IQ at just over eight years of age, according to Kate Northstone, PhD of the University of Bristol, and colleagues.

In contrast, study authors reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that children who ate a more healthy diet that included salad, rice, pasta, fish, fruits and vegetables showed a 1.20-point increase in IQ.

Researchers guess that the quality of a child's diet at the age of three could be related to their level of intelligence later on because the brain's growth rate is fastest in the first three years of life.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Study: Beautiful People Have Higher IQs 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- Beautiful people apparently not only have looks, but also brains.  A joint U.S./British study conducted by the London School of Economics not only scored more than 52,000 people on their appearance, it also measured their academic achievements and IQ.

Researchers discovered that handsome men scored 13.6 points above the average IQ score of 100, while beautiful women were 11.4 points above.

“In samples, physical attractiveness is significantly positively associated with general intelligence, both with and without controls for social class, body size and health,” lead researcher Satoshi Kanazawa tells Britain’s Sun newspaper.

The research also seems to indicate that the offspring of good-looking couples will inherit their parents’ higher intelligence genes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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