Posted by: Arthur Blake | 2009-03-20

If we can think faster, are we more intelligent?

I heard a really fascinating story on NPR today. New research in the journal of neuroscience found that basically, the faster the nerve impulses can travel down the pathways in your brain, the higher your IQ is.

The article really piqued my interest as I’ve often wished I could get more things done and be more productive and pondered how I could work smarter or even be smarter on a more permanent basis… what are the limiting factors of my productivity and what are the limiting factors of my brain… ?

I find this fascinating…

My questions are:

How can we use this knowledge to increase our intelligence?

What other significant factors are there that contribute to intelligence?

Are faster processing and intelligence, in fact the same thing?

If we make the analogy with computers, a faster computer is obviously more desirable than a slow one because with faster hardware, we can run more complex rich software programs that do more things for us, and we can multitask more programs at once as well.

Indeed, faster chip speeds at a lower unit of cost (along with higher storage capacity) have been the single most important goals in chip manufacturing and computer advancement for as long as I can remember…

Logically it seems like faster processing is not equivalent to more intelligence, because a really dumb person wouldn’t come up with the same solutions as a really intelligent person, no matter how much time you gave them; or would they? Would a room full of 10 really slow people come up with an equally brilliant solution to a problem as one really smart person with 10x the intelligence?

Notice I said slow people above instead of dumb people… It seems that at some level this notion of slowness and low intelligence is actually obvious common knowledge, as the terms, “slow” and “dumb” are more or less interchangeable.

If we could somehow increase the speed of transmission of the brain signals of slow individuals, could we make them into more intelligent people?

A lot to think about for sure…

UPDATE: another article about it!



  1. Hi Arthur,

    I was floored when I saw that news too. I have questions:

    – Is there an optimal speed at which connections can work?

    – Do demyelinating diseases make you stupid?

    – What about the brains of kids? Are they smarter because their connections are at the fastest rate (or are they?).


    (btw – I came here looking at your js compressor stats)

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