Re: Memory vs. Intelligence [was Re: Doogie Mice]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Sun, 5 Sep 1999 06:48:27 -0700 (PDT)

On Sat, 4 Sep 1999 wrote:

I found a reference to the "Types of Intelligence" (from psychologist Howard Gardner):

In summary they are:
Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Bodily-kinesthetic, Spatial, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal

> Keep in mind that these are MICE. They're not going to be inventing the
> theory of relativity. Do you claim that mice simply can't shed any light
> on the mechanisms of human intelligence, because they don't have any?

I would say because you are dealing with mice, the only thing you are going to be able to test are types of intelligence related to the survival of mice. Does enhanching LTP improve the linguistic or musical abilities of a mice ?!?

> What would constitute intelligent behavior in mice, as compared to simply
> memory improvement?
Getting faster/stronger memories is going to help "intelligent" behavior in the respect that you have increased the "capacity". My argument was, however, that you haven't really altered the "abilities" (for lack of a better word). Are we impressed at the person who can rapidly add a sequence of 15 numbers in their head and give us an answer? Only to a limited degree, they are only doing what most of us can do with fewer numbers. We (or at least I) say "you have a good memory", not "you are more intelligent".

I will freely admit that memory is a foundation that sits under many of the things we may label as intelligence. You aren't considered to have much musical "intelligence" if you can't remember a fairly long sequence of notes. However, how does memory relate to something like "perfect pitch" which is considered by some to be a very important part of musical "abilities".

The thing I was objecting to in the article abstract however:

> Our results suggest that genetic enhancement of mental and
> cognitive attributes such as intelligence and memory in mammals is
> feasible.

was the use of the word "intelligence". I recognize that they said "mammals" and did not extropolate to humans, this was done by the news media. Now maybe I'm splitting hairs, but to me the improvement of intelligence calls for an expansion in the cognative abilities rather than just the capacity.

To me an improvement in intelligence would be more along the lines of "synesthesia", a rare disorder, discussed in the book "The Man who Tasted Shapes", by Richard E. Cytowic, MD:

In this disorder, you have the creation of a whole new realm of "intelligence".

I personally have a fairly good memory and am very good with spatial relationships (navigation, etc.). I have a friend who is an interior designer who once described to me how she works. She *sees* the rooms she designs as finished products in her minds eye. I can't even remember what rooms look like, much less take an empty one and fill it with stuff. So there would seem to be some interaction between the spatial and "logical-methematical" intelligences that is fundamentally different between my friend and I. Whether I could develop her skill if I practiced it or whether her brain has connections between different parts that I could never form, I don't know.

Intelligence is much more complex than simply memory. My perspective would be that intelligence is more related to the overall pattern of interconnections in the brain. LTP may only relate to that from the perspective that it may facilitate the formation or maintenance of those connections on a local basis. It doesn't take your motor cortex and wire it to your spatial rotation operator (which is probably someplace in the forebrain).

Hopefully that makes it the point I was trying to make a little clearer.