Brain responses to passive sensory stimulation correlate with intelligence

Anna Horwitz, Marc Klemp, Henrik Horwitz, Mia Dyhr Thomsen, Egill Rostrup, Erik Lykke Mortensen, Merete Osler, Martin Lauritzen, Krisztina Benedek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study investigates the association between intelligence and brain power responses to a passive audiovisual stimulation. We measure the power of gamma-range steady-state responses (SSRs) as well as intelligence and other aspects of neurocognitive function in 40 healthy males born in 1953. The participants are a part of a Danish birth cohort study and the data therefore include additional information measured earlier in life. Our main power measure is the difference in power between a visual stimulation and a combined audiovisual stimulation. We hypothesize and establish empirically that the power measure is associated with intelligence. In particular, we find a highly significant correlation between the power measure and present intelligence scores. The association is robust to controlling for size-at-birth measures, length of education, speed of processing as well as a range of other potentially confounding factors. Interestingly, we find that intelligence scores measured earlier in life (childhood, youth, late midlife), are also correlated with the present-day power measure, suggesting a deep connection between intelligence and the power measure. Finally, we find that the power measure has a high sensitivity for detection of an intelligence score below the average. HIGHLIGHTS - Intelligence scores are correlated with the change in steady-state evoked power responses from single to double-sensory stimulation (1P). - Intelligence scores measured earlier in life (childhood, youth, and late midlife), in addition to scores measured presently in old age, are also associated with present-day 1P. - The correlations are not driven by observed covariates, including birth size, education, processing speed, or a range of other potentially confounding factors determined after youth, nor other day-specific factors or factors that operate in an additive and constant fashion on the level of steady-state power responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number201
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Issue numberJUL
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Aging
  • EEG
  • Gamma power
  • Intelligence
  • Longitudinal intelligence scores
  • Neurocognitive function
  • Steady-state evoked potentials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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    Horwitz, A., Klemp, M., Horwitz, H., Thomsen, M. D., Rostrup, E., Mortensen, E. L., Osler, M., Lauritzen, M., & Benedek, K. (2019). Brain responses to passive sensory stimulation correlate with intelligence. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 10(JUL), [201].