People with high IQs find it easier to keep time, research finds.
This has nothing to do with being musical, just the simple ability to tap out a regular rhythm.
Good timing seems to be built in at a fundamental level to the brains of more intelligent people.
Professor Fredrik Ullén, a pianist and neuroscientist who led the study, said:
“It’s interesting as the task didn’t involve any kind of problem solving.
Irregularity of timing probably arises at a more fundamental biological level owing to a kind of noise in brain activity.”
For the study, people were just asked to maintain a steady, regular beat with a drumstick on a drum pad.
For the first 20 beats, they tried to copy the clicking of a metronome.
Then for a further 45 beats, they tried to keep the rhythm without assistance.
The results showed that:
“…intelligence is related to millisecond accuracy in isochronous [regular] tapping.”
Professor Ullén says the link suggests that millisecond timing accuracy in the brain is important to problem-solving ability:
“We know that accuracy at millisecond level in neuronal activity is critical to information processing and learning processes.”
Brain scans also revealed a link between high intelligence, ability to keep time and more white matter in parts of the brain linked to planning, problem solving and managing time.
Professor Ullén said:
“All in all, this suggests that a factor of what we call intelligence has a biological basis in the number of nerve fibres in the prefrontal lobe and the stability of neuronal activity that this provides.”
Similarly, people with high intelligence also have quicker reaction times.
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The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience (Ullén et al., 2008).