January 23, 2013
Variety Of Brain Regions Contribute To Emotional Intelligence Says Study
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Scientists from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign recently studied emotional intelligence by focusing on combat-related brain injures in 152 Vietnam veterans. The researchers believe that this is the first study to provide a detailed look at how different brain regions can affect emotional intelligence.
With emotional intelligence, individuals can process emotional information and work through various parts of the social world. The results of the study showed a large amount of overlap between emotional intelligence and general intelligence, with correlations in behavior and the brain. Those who scored higher on the general intelligence tests also had higher performance on tests evaluating emotional intelligence. The findings of the study were recently published in the journal Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience.
"This was a remarkable group of patients to study, mainly because it allowed us to determine the degree to which damage to specific brain areas was related to impairment in specific aspects of general and emotional intelligence," said the study´s study lead researcher Aron K. Barbey, a neuroscience, psychology, and speech and hearing science professor at the University of Illinois´ Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.
For the project, the researchers took data from the CT scans of participants´ brains to produce an aggregate, three-dimensional map of the cerebral cortex. The composite brain was then split into 3D units, known as voxels, which the researchers used to compare the cognitive abilities of an individual with damage to a specific voxel or a group of voxels to an individual who did not have any injures in those specific regions of the brain.
In comparing the two types of patients, the team was able to determine brain areas that were necessary for certain cognitive abilities as well as those parts of the brain that were intertwined with emotional intelligence, general intelligence, or both.
Based on the results of the study, the scientists determined that specific regions in the frontal cortex — which lies just behind the forehead — and parietal cortex at the top of the brain near the back of the skull, were essential for both emotional and general intelligence. The frontal cortex has been thought to regulate behavior, process feelings of reward and influence higher-level cognitive skills like attention, memory and planning. On the other hand, the parietal cortex helps to incorporate sensory information and is also involved in bodily coordination and language processing.
"Historically, general intelligence has been thought to be distinct from social and emotional intelligence," continued Barbey in the statement.
The researchers believe that the outcomes of the study will assist scientists and clinicians in their understanding and response to brain injuries as well as showcase how general and emotional intelligence are intertwined.
"Intelligence, to a large extent, does depend on basic cognitive abilities, like attention and perception and memory and language," concluded Barbey. "But it also depends on interacting with other people. We're fundamentally social beings and our understanding not only involves basic cognitive abilities but also involves productively applying those abilities to social situations so that we can navigate the social world and understand others."