Graham is the joint brainchild of sculptor Patricia Piccinini, a leading trauma and road safety specialist. The humanoid creature they created is developed on the basis of many car accidents and represents the ideal person to survive in an accident.

Graham's brain is normal, so one of the most vulnerable parts of the body. It is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which protects it from everyday shocks and shocks, but the skull is enlarged: it has more fluid and ligaments that protect the brain from concussion. Graham's skull is huge and resembles a helmet, and built-in crumple zones are designed to absorb impact energy. When the force of a collision hits the skull, it cracks. Essentially, this prevents impact energy from reaching the brain, meaning the skull serves the same purpose as the helmet. Graham's skull absorbs the bulk of the impact.

According to the plot of my work, my genetically modified superhumans also have an internal structure of the skull, which was already mentioned above, however, the new, improved type of people I am describing should be several times superior to us in intelligence, but as you might have noticed, the brain cannot be enlarged.

To summarize, my question is this: how to increase the cognitive abilities of the human brain (short and long term memory and general computing ability) without increasing the size of the skull and the brain itself?

  • $\begingroup$ You're describing intelligence a bit like you'd describe a laptop. There is more to that in reality than just memory and computing ability. Anyhow, look at your computer or mobile or so: they have small, even micro chips. Even a several times faster calculating human will still lose out big time against some regular household items. I'd challenge what you want in intelligence. $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ To put it bluntly, there is no link between the size of the skull and memorization and calculation abilities. For a rather well-known example, Leonhard Euler, who was not only a prominent mathematician, but also had a great memory and prodigy-level mental calculation abilities, had a skull of normal size. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ Is having smart parents a valid solution? Evidence supports the fact that intelligence is at least partially inheritable. If you're willing to throw ethics out the window and go full-eugenics, you could probably breed a statistically smarter human over a couple generations. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ Have you read the question? It clearly talks about genetically modified superhumans (a new artificially created form of man), in which a large part of the skull is designed to protect the brain from concussions and blows, like a helmet, because of which the brain cannot be too large, however, these creatures must be much smarter than us (ordinary people), this problem needs to be solved: how to give them high intellectual capabilities without increasing the size of the brain? (my superhumans must be at least 5 times smarter than an ordinary person (500 iQ)) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ Small note: 500 IQ is not "five times smarter". It's a statistical measurement, where 100 IQ is the midpoint of human intelligence; if IQ testing is averaging more or less than 100 over all tests, then they re-norm the test to make 100 the midpoint again. The standard deviation is around 15 points. An IQ of 130 or higher, then, is held by about 2.5% of individuals, and an IQ of 160 or higher is held by less than 0.5%. However, the degree of intelligence between 160 and 100 is not defined by this measurement: it could be two times, four times, or a hundred times, without changing the IQ scale. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 11:04

4 Answers 4



Some area's of the brain are much older and better developed evolutionary wise. Williams and Herrup (1988) made an estimation of the total amount of neurons. 12-15 billion in the telencephalon, 70 billion in the cerebellum, 1 billion in the brainstem. But the cerebral cortex composes only between 21-26 billion neurons, even though it envelops most of the rest of the brain. So the density of the cerebral cortex can increase significantly, while the square area stays the same.

The gyri and sulci aid in the structuring of the brain, allowing the neurons to continue growing thanks to the larger surface area, compared to surfaces without sulci and gyri. This is suggested by Cusack, R. (2005). Increasing this in the cerebellum will likely increase effectiveness of the brain.

Increase density and the general structure and you can get better results while the brain occupies the same space.

Brain stimulation

It is suggested that transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) can improve brain functioning. In the discussion, Chi, R. and Snyder, A.W. (2012) suggest the inhibiting left anterior temporal lobe and prior learned knowledge prevents certain ways of thinking, even when prompted to think of in other ways. The tDCS is supposed to facilitate the right anterior temporal lobe while inhibiting the left, allowing people to do certain tasks better. Another example is the suppression of 'magical' thinking thanks to transcranial magnetic stimulation (Bell, V. et all.).

As certain area's of the brain are clearly activated or deactivated during certain tasks and inhibition is already happening inside the brain, it isn't unlikely that this feature is extended. Allowing your superhumans to suppress and activate certain area's of the brain with certain tasks.


Plasticity is often talked about in both psychology and neuro science. Although no sources are given, it seems generally accepted that plasticity, the growing of new connections and neurons in the brain, makes organisms learn. Talk about increasing plasticity for better learning seems to be a goal in itself. A few examples: Wan, C.Y. and Schlaug, G (2010) Mahncke, W.H., Bronstone, A., Merzenich, M.M. (2006) Johnston, M.V. (2009)

Increasing this plasticity in certain area's of the brain can help your supersoldiers further.

Brain damage

Interestingly Chi, R. and Snyder, A.W. (2012) had a person excluded when they found out he had received some brain damage as a child. The experiment was still conducted out of curiosity and he could solve the problems without stimulation. Brain damage will reveal more improvement to the brain, both on short term and long term, with more research.


It is very possible to improve the brain in efficiency and power (as in brain density), while not using more space. However, the true improvement isn't a number that can be given. The nature of intelligence is difficult to define and is still discussed today. Einstein was thought to never master math when younger, but still changed the world. His brain wasn't different as far as they could tell after his death. A requirement of "500IQ" is an impossible notion. But increasing their potential for learning, thinking and motor skills is certainly possible.


Accessory brain.

We will leave the brain of your modified people as is. But we will give them additional brain tissue in extracranial sites - satellite brains. This can happen in real life.

Brain ectopic tissue in sacrococcygeal region of a child, clinically mimicking sacrococcygeal teratoma: a case report

Heterotopic brain tissue most commonly occurs in the nasal region and it is often referred to as a nasal glioma (Karma et al. 1977). The most widely accepted theory involves embryologic herniation of brain tissue through a defect in the skull, which subsequently closes and cuts off the connection between the brain and the ectopic focus (Coumou et al. 2014). Ectopic brain tissue is a rare developmental abnormality that usually has no effect on neurological development and is not associated with other congenital deformities or anomalies

In our case, a male neonate is presented with sacrococcygeal area mass which clinically and radiologically diagnosed as sacrococcygeal teratoma. Histopathological examination reveals only mature brain tissue which is a rare anomaly of heterotopic brain tissue in this area.

This child had his accessory brain excised because it was feared to be a tumor. There is no way to know if he could have used its accessory brain tissue but it is conceivable - this was normal brain. Your people have ample additional gray matter distributed in extracranial sites throughout the body. Given that your people seem engineered both to be very smart and survive car crashes, one would need to put accessory brain in a well defended area. The described case had brain in the sacrum which is robust bone. I might imagine a site immediately behind the sternum would also be well shielded. One could take advantage of your skull augmentations by filling the sinuses with gray matter - and apparently in real life, the paranasal sinuses are a common site for ectopic brain tissue to be discovered.

I could imagine that in updates of this GMO human, even more body space will be given over to brain - perhaps in the place of the right lung and right kidney extending longitudinally through the body. This would produce a brain volume exceeding by several times that of an unmodified human. Further updates might repurpose a much enlarged abdominal cavity to house a truly great brain weighing 80 kg by itself. This abdominal brain would be susceptible to damage in auto accidents but the individuals so endowed have become so smart that they have devised ways to not be in auto accidents.


The brain is as-per-now unbeaten if you measure (meaningful) operations per second (so not just moving bits) and the ability to learn fast and generalize local problems with common sense.

It is, however, especially bad at raw calculatory ability (as in adding, subtracting, multiply, divide, calculus). It also has a low memory capacity of estimated 120 GB, which leads to some interesting questions about our memory.

There are also multiple unknowns in neuroscience today. Are there neurons working together like transistors do in a flip flop memory cell? Is there storage going on the level below neuron connections, for example is part of the neuron's DNA or part of the neurons protein content used as storage device? We don't know.

Your superhuman, if it is constructed, could have a calculatory cell complex the size of a pinhead which helps him to calculate on a much higher, more precise level than any human normally does. As it is directly in his brain, they would use it instinctively. They would probably feel pain if someone claims improbable stuff, because they would have a natural feeling for probabilities... a thing where most of us are totally weak or even blind. As they factor this into their daily life, they will constantly be able to take better decisions and be also faster about it then the rest of us.

That today's scientific speculation about DNA level storage capacity could be made explicit for them. With that they would have loads more than those 120GB I mentioned above. Again, it is constructed, so proper indexing mechanisms would be there from the beginning. That means, they would not only have associative memory like us, but have a cell cluster that delivers information on explicit request, too. The ability to never forget birthdays, names, faces, interests, and private content about persons around them would give them a social edge which alone would make them lots more successful than any of us.

If you finally rearrange the consciousness so that it has two or three channels more than the standard, they could think in great detail about problems and find solutions before the others even get aware that there is a problem.

There you are. Two modules which fill gaps that our monkey brains have, either one not big enough to count toward your volumetric constraints, would give them a crazy advantage which the rest of us would perceive as "intelligence". If you add the consciousness channels, those two modules could even have a privileged access to it.

Now if you add some kind of antenna in their enlarged skulls, they could even send feelings and thoughts to each other with a band with high enough that their distinct personalities fade when they are near each other. Imagine two or more brains thinking together if they want. After that, they would be so far beyond humans, they would probably not communicate with us anymore. Or just the way we talk to a dog. Not good for a story. :-)

  • $\begingroup$ I didn't understand anything, you can describe the process of chemical memory in more detail. Also your answer is more suitable for science based rather than hard science. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ You are wrong. The human brain has 86 billion neurons, each of which can have up to ten thousand synapses with other neurons. And each of the neurons can store information in the amount of 4.7 bits. In total, it turns out that the human brain has a capacity of about a thousand terabytes (or one petabyte). For comparison, all of Google's servers process over 25 petabytes of data daily. But the human brain spends only about 20 watts on this, while Google's data centers consume thousands of kilowatts of electricity. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ Your calculation is right, but not all of the connections are memory. Most is processing. Difficult topic, even neuroscientists don't know enough. Google's translator apparently is their biggest brainlike interconneced Data Center - size of a mouse brain. $\endgroup$
    – Anderas
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 19:46

If your main targets are memory and computing ability, you could modify their body to either naturally produce chemicals that enhance these things in humans or replicate the effects those chemicals have on the human body in your superhuman's structure; depending on how much control you have over your creation process.

Things that improve memory include

  • blueberry juice
  • pomegranate juice
  • piracetam
  • longan fruit

Things that improve decision accuracy and processing speed include

  • L-arginine derivatives
  • Kava

Here's a study on arginine as an example, and here's the article on Longan tests on mice.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Have you read the question? It clearly talks about genetically modified superhumans (a new artificially created form of man), in which a large part of the skull is designed to protect the brain from concussions and blows, like a helmet, because of which the brain cannot be too large, however, these creatures must be much smarter than us (ordinary people), this problem needs to be solved: how to give them high intellectual capabilities without increasing the size of the brain? (my superhumans must be at least 5 times smarter than an ordinary person (500 iQ)) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ The question doesn't define how much smarter they need to be, so I went with the most plausible solution for giving someone better memory. It also doesn't define the tools you have available to reach that goal. So for example you could engineer their neurons to use bio-fiber-optic cables to communicate instead of regular axons... this would make someone process data exponentially faster, although you'd still need to engineer them to remember things differently, you could probably solve this by tweaking the rate of pruning old neurons. $\endgroup$
    – Rastilin
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ I have made it clear that we are talking about genetically engineered creatures (a new kind of human), not ordinary stimulants. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ @FrenchThompson: Is there a reason your engineered ubermen can’t produce the active ingredients of these stimulants? Having an endocrine system that can dump ‘smart drugs’ on demand to boost intelligence seems like a pretty good solution. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ This can be done, however, in my opinion, the restructuring of the central nervous system for something more perfect would be a more logical decision than using the same brain construction as now just strumming it with vitamins (which, by the way, will not provide the result in terms of higher intelligence of which I trying). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 12:32

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