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Could Brain Scans Help You Pick a Job in the Future?

Ability tests are nothing new. You need to take the SAT to get into a good college. Athletes at varying levels need to be able to perform physical tests at predetermined levels to join the team. Failing to reach a certain standard can be the difference between success and failure in numerous life situations. Now, imagine if you have to undergo a brain scan to qualify for a certain job position. This technology may not be far ahead.

In a recently published study, Gray matter correlates of cognitive ability tests used for vocational guidance, by Dr. Richard Haier (from the University of California), Haier and his team used MRI scans to determine which brain areas were implicated in a host of different « ability factors » like analytical reasoning, general intelligence, memory skills and spatial awareness. They then looked at these ability metrics and compared them with individual test scores from a battery of cognitive tests (completed by 40 individuals seeking vocational guidance). The proposed hypothesis being suggested is that brain scans may be helpful for job seekers looking for career path guidance.

Cognitive functions cannot be perfectly isolated in the brain. There is no perfect map showing the exact areas where thoughts and motives are processed. Most mental tasks involve a complicated web of neural circuits, which interact in varying degrees with each other throughout the brain. Neurons have been likened to the instruments in a symphony orchestra combining their tenor, volume, and resonance to create a particular musical effect (National Geographic | Beyond the Brain).

This system of neural circuits (often referred to as gray matter) is a major component of the central nervous system, which consists of neuronal cell bodies, dendrites, unmyelinated axons and myelinated axons, glial cells and capillaries. The purpose of the system is to route sensory and motor stimulus to interneurons of the cranial nervous system. This process creates our responses to stimulus through chemical synapse activity.

Haier is not alone in his findings. In the study Relationships between IQ and Regional Cortical Gray Matter Thickness in Healthy Adults by Dr. Katherine Narr et al, Dr. Narr and her team suggest that there is a relationship between I.Q. and regional cortical gray matter thickness as well.

More researchers have deduced that the psychometric structure of cognitive tests can help identify brain networks related to cognitive abilities beyond simply a general intelligence factor.

Another cognitive researcher, Professor Willem Verbeke (Rotterdam’s Erasmus University) anticipates the usage of brain scans in some job interviews within five years’ time. Only time will tell if Verbeke’s prediction is correct, for now your resume will do.