It sounds like the plot of a zombie movie – researchers have discovered a virus which affects the human cognitive capabilities and, bluntly said, makes them dumber. In spite of our advanced lifestyles, which foster the increase of the average IQ among the population, several current trends in biology and nutrition seem not only to make people dumber, but as well emotionally less stable. This might be the key explanation to the perception for the trend that more and more people are suffering from mental conditions and show neurotic elements, like depersonalisation – or people refer to as the feeling of “emotionally numb”. But first things first.
Dumber or Smarter? Contrary Trends
Many scholars argue that mankind is becoming smarter. Researchers at London’s Kind College have analysed IQ tests from the past decades and have concluded that since the 1950s, the IQ on average has risen with 20 points. In developed countries higher IQs have been linked to improved nutrition, better and longer schooling, intensified and abstract stimuli for children due to the shrinking of the family – children nowadays witness more often adult conversations and actions than they did a few decades ago. These stimuli trigger higher brain activity, resulting in higher IQs.
However, there are theories and studies which suggest that we might have passed the intellectual peak in human history and our capabilities are actually declining. The combination of biological developments and modern lifestyles favour the IQ decline.
A Virus Making You Dumb
The DNA of a virus which usually infects green algae has been found in the throats of human beings, according to virologists of the University of Nebraska and the John Hopkins Medical School. Out of the 90 persons in the sample, 45% had a positive result. The ones who carried the virus had lower scores in cognitive tests, reacting more slowly to visual stimuli and performing worse in memory exercises.
As if this news wasn’t bad enough, the effect on the cognitive system – the set of items connected to assumptions and beliefs which determine learning and reasoning – might trigger the feeling of depersonalisation, meaning a disconnection either from yourself or others. Nevertheless, the virus doesn’t cause other clinical diseases – actually, the infected people were all healthy, just slower.
Genetic Mutations and Evolution Favour the Decline of the IQ
Gerald Crabtree, researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine, discovered in 2012 during his research that there is tendency towards adverse genetic mutations. Arguing that intelligence isn’t that as important for survival as it used to be, human intelligence and emotional stability appear to lower than 2000 years ago.
Additionally, a negative correlation between IQ and reproduction has been observed since the 1800s. Since people with lower IQs statistically even today have more children, from an evolutionary point of view, it might be beneficial if the IQ on average dropped. However, as researchers have discovered a long-term trend towards increasing intellectual capabilities, a mating paradox is emerging. The strong urge to reproduce meets the biggest burden in the IQ.
Nutrition can Damage Your Learning and Memory Skills
Too much salt and sugar is bad for you. That’s nothing new, but researchers and Harvard and the UCLA have proven the negative effects of Fluorides – particular salts which are added to drinking water and table salt – high-fructose like corn syrup and high processed food.
Sugar in general can have a similar effect on the brain as drugs – it activates the reward system and with overconsumption, it might cause a loss of control over cravings and desires. In an UCLA study, scientists have discovered that the average American consumes 35 pounds (almost 18 kilo) of corn syrup annually and there is clear evidence that this damages learning and memory functions of the brain. Observing children, the scholars have found out that the ones who from an early age were fed with high-processed products are likelier to significantly loose IQ points in the age between 3 and 8, while for children with a balanced, nutritious diet the effect was reverse.
Similarly, Harvard scholars proved a correlation between the levels of fluoridisation and lower intelligence among children. Since salts are necessary for the human system to function, the US Federal Government had decided in the past to enrich drinking water with Fluorides in order to improve the citizens’ nutrition, but the contrary effect emerged. Not only that a high concentration of Fluorides is harmful to the brain, it facilitates tumour growth.
Why does that matter?
Perhaps you might think that it’s not important if people are getting dumber, but the problem with the biological effects is more serious than one could suggest at first glance. No matter if it is a virus, genetic mutation or poor nutrition choices – whatever effects the cognitive system can trigger a cognitive dissonance, a state when a person holds several beliefs and priorities which are contradicting each other, e.g. the desire to have a family and to live an individualistic life at the same time.
Cognitive dissonance and the aforementioned depersonalisation are often key aspects of a clinical depression and can harm personal relationships, which intensifies the effect in return. Considering that depression rates and mental conditions have been increasing, a new medical understanding for the treatment and the problems of our peers is necessary.