Scientists Complete 1st Map of 'Emotional Intelligence' in the Brain

MONDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have completed the first detailed map of brain regions involved in emotional intelligence, which refers to the ability to identify, understand, manage and use emotions in positive ways.

The study included 152 Vietnam veterans with combat-related brain injuries who underwent CT brain scans.

"Historically, general intelligence has been thought to be distinct from social and emotional intelligence," study lead author Aron Barbey of the University of Illinois noted in a university news release.

However, the scans showed significant overlap between general intelligence and emotional intelligence, both in terms of behavior and in the brain, according to the study published online recently in the journal Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience.

Higher scores on general intelligence tests were strongly tied to better performance in tests of emotional intelligence. The researchers also found that many of the same brain regions were involved in both general and emotional intelligence.

"This was a remarkable group of patients to study, mainly because it allowed us to determine the degree to which damage to specific brain areas was related to impairment in specific aspects of general and emotional intelligence," said Barbey, a professor of neuroscience, of psychology and of speech and hearing science at the university's Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Barbey and colleagues found that specific regions in the frontal cortex (behind the forehead) and parietal cortex (top of the brain near the back of the head) were important to both general and emotional intelligence.

The frontal cortex processes feelings of reward and plays a role in attention, planning and memory. The parietal cortex helps process sensory information and also plays a role in physical coordination and language processing.

Along with providing new information about the link between general and emotional intelligence, Barbey said these new findings will help scientists and doctors better understand and treat brain injuries.

More information

Helpguide.org has more about emotional intelligence.

SOURCE: University of Illinois, news release, Jan. 22, 2013

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