Search This Blog

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Conundrum of White Matter

If my theory below was entirely correct there should have been a correlation between IQ and white matter of 1.  There isn't - a couple of research papers for a moderate correlation and one research paper found a slight negative correlation.  I also found out that in the research that grey matter also has a moderate correlation with IQ.  So we have two things that are implicated but neither tells the entire story.

Here is my idea, the more grey matter that you have, the more connections there are between every node in the brain, the more connections there are the fewer jumps needed to get from the first red dot to the second red dot.  So even if your secretion of myelin is slower you have a shorter journey.

This would also allow there to be a negative correlation between white matter and IQ for a small sample, if the journey is double in a brain with less gray matter, then you'd have to create twice as much myelin to cover all of the journeys needed.

So I am going to put it out there, something that could be tested quite easily but something that I haven't seen in any paper - if you standardize for amount of gray matter, the correlation between white matter and IQ will be close to 1.

I have no idea how this helps anybody in the whole entire world at all.  I just like thinking!

Thanks to: @learningspy : @mikecameron : @Ingotian for engaging in discussion with me, the maniac.

IQ, Myelin and Conscientiousness

This is just an idea, just a theory, I have no way of even knowing if my hypothesis is possible.  However, I have been thinking about it for a good while and I think it explains everything about 'intelligence' neatly.  I believe that Occam razor won't improve it, so please rip the ideas to shreds.

Idea 1 - 'Knowledge' is connecting together the correct nodes -

First off I'm going to give a stripped down version of knowledge.  I feel that this is the simplest way to start and hopefully my idea has enough information to still be relevant:

So knowledge is about connecting the nodes between the starting point (the left red dot) and the end point (the right red dot).  Some will be journeys of many nodes and some journeys of few nodes.  The reason I feel that there could be multiple nodes is due to the similarities of misconceptions, in mathematics there are some misconceptions that are so common, throughout all teachers, that there must be a common brain reason for them.  Let us say that understanding that the size of a fraction depends upon 4 separate nodes, but if you only light up the journey between 2 of them you will think that the bigger the denominator on a fraction, the bigger the fraction, if you light 3 up you will understand that the denominator effects the size, but you will be oblivious to the numerator having an effect also, a more 'sophisticated' mistake.  When all 4 are lit up then you have a full understanding of ordering fractions.

Idea 1 - 'Knowledge' is connecting together the correct nodes - 

Supporting 'ideas' -
The same nodes in all people as misconceptions seem to be common throughout all schools.
This can also explain why knowing what the student already knows leads to greater gains in knowledge as you are focusing on the correct link between nodes.

Idea 2 - 'IQ' is the rate at which myelin is secreted in the brain -

IQ is a good (but not a great) predictor of how well a student will do at school, the second best predictor is conscientiousness.  If conscientiousness was the best predictor than all humans would have been created equally and your achievement would be in line with your work ethic, however this is clearly not true.  So if knowledge is the connecting together of the correct nodes, there must be a reason that some people learn more quickly than others.  We already know of the importance of myelin in 'talent' however what if IQ is the rate in which myelin is secreted in the brain, while conscientiousness accounts for how quickly your brain coats the sections between the nodes in myelin.

Idea 2 - 'IQ' is the rate at which myelin is secreted in the brain -

Supporting 'ideas' -
Some students learn more quickly than others when all students put the same level of effort in, almost always determined by IQ (go and check your classes).
The fact that although Einstein's brain didn't have any extra grey matter it had a significant amount more white matter than the average human.  (However I am not sure of any more weighing of human brains)

Idea 3 - The rate of decay of knowledge for all students is the same -

Although the rate of gaining knowledge is clearly different, due to the rate of secretion of myelin, the rate of decay should be the same.  The reason that higher IQ students seem to have a slower rate of decay is that their myelin sheath is more likely to have been to the maximum thickness whereas a lower IQ student would have a thinner myelin sheath.  Given that the size of myelin sheath are the same, the rate of decay would also be the same.

Idea 4 - The myelin is in plentiful supply for all students to achieve extremely well at school (In terms of almost all students capable of an A* in mathematics)

Looking at the study of Chinese students at British schools, the poorest Chinese students outperform the richest British students.  This shows that with conscientiousness there is clearly enough myelin to do great things.

End of Idea

Right, please break it down, bust it up, but don't say 'you are a moron' please be helpful, explain why I am a moron!

Anyways, thanks!  PS My MS paint skills are shocking, I know.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Is PRP a Good Thing?

As Twitter has far too few characters to make a compelling argument against PRP I have decided to blog the reasoning, so here goes:

Education is a non zero-sum game (which basically means if somebody else becomes better, nobody else loses out because of this) so it is in everybody's interests for new ideas to propagate quickly, because 'beating' the competition serves no purpose as the victory doesn't really reward you in any substantial way.

Hedge Funds (Dominic Cumming's example) is a zero-sum game (this basically means a success for me means a failure for somebody else) so it is in the interests of the 'best' companies to keep their secrets.  Anything that confers a competitive advantage should not be shared as it is what makes the company the 'best'.

At the moment education is basically treated as a non-zero sum game because being better (and in education it is usually an idea as opposed to a product and ideas can propagate very easily) doesn't lead to anything extra that is really substantial.

When you start paying for performance then you change education from being a non-zero sum game to more of a zero sum game - because anything that gives you a competitive advantage now has a tangible value.  This now means the paradigm shifts to a much slower propagation of ideas, as it is in the interests of teachers not to share as once the idea becomes common knowledge, the competitive edge is gone.

I wanted to show there is a precedent here - and there is.  Another non-zero sum game is health (just because I get healthier doesn't mean somebody else becomes less healthy) so it is in everybody's interest for a quick spread of ideas so everybody wins.  However, if health becomes a zero sum game, as in if a person comes to my practice, more money for me, less for you, then it is in the interests of people with a competitive edge to keep that edge, to not help other people.

So I draw my argument to a close with the story of forceps in hospitals - ostensibly 'invented' in 1734 to help with difficult births, however Dr Peter Chamberlen had invented it before 1670.  So for more than 150 years a way to reduce infant mortality was kept quiet due to health being treated as a zero-sum game.

The Forceps Family

Selected quote:

'Peter the Elder is believed to be the inventor of the forceps. The brothers went to great length to keep the secret. When they arrived at the home of a woman in labour, two people had to carry a massive box with gilded carvings into the house. The pregnant patient was blindfolded so as not to reveal the secret, all the others had to leave the room. Then the operator went to work. The people outside heard screams, bells, and other strange noises until the cry of the baby indicated another successful delivery.

The secret was kept in the family for another three generations.'