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Intelligent Humans Evolved To Worry, Say Scientists

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A new study by researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in the US suggests that excess worrying could be a sign of intelligence.

Scientists found that high intelligence and worry both correlate with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in the subcortical white matter of the brain. According to the researchers, this suggests that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.

"While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be," said Jeremy Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate.

"In essence, worry may make people 'take no chances' and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species."

In a control group of normal volunteers, high IQ was associated with a lower degree of worry, but in those diagnosed with 'generalized anxiety disorder', high IQ was associated with a greater degree of worry.

In the report's summary, researchers state: "Previous studies have indicated that excessive worry tends to exist both in people with higher intelligence and lower intelligence, and less so in people of moderate intelligence. It has been hypothesized that people with lower intelligence suffer more anxiety because they achieve less success in life."

The results of their study, “The Relationship between Intelligence and Anxiety: An Association with Subcortical White Matter Metabolism,” was published in a recent edition of Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience.

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