Increasing Brain Power


When I was a kid, I wanted to find a way for increasing brain power.

Back then, it was more about finding ways to make sense of the chaos in my house, and finding safety because I knew everything and was all powerful, so it was a childlike search.

Well, now there actually are some tools and trainings you can use which can make measurable differences in IQ and attention and memory.

Increasing brain power does not translate into omniscience or omnipotence, however it provides a platform for clearer more effective evaluations of sensory information and more effective decisions about variables in your life.

For a Senior Citizen all that verbiage translates into being able to remember a grocery list without writing it out, which is an important quality of life variable. For an athlete, it might mean an extra split second of attention to a pitched ball, or for a student, insight into how to solve a novel word problem.

I have included the actual abstract for a research article published in 2008, so this information is new, scientifically speaking, and a marketer has put together a program taking advantage of the dual n back task already. (I own it and really enjoy it. I have an ADD kind of brain and the Mind Sparke program helps me focus, which is a blessing).

This is the abstract from an article at PNAS. The link follows. This is pretty amazing. While I am not a neuroscientist, I am not aware of previous evidence of generalization from a training exercise to another skill, like fluid intelligence, which is so necessary in this day and age when we have to attend to so many projects.

"Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory

1. Susanne M. Jaeggi*,†,‡, 2. Martin Buschkuehl*,†,‡, 3. John Jonides*, and 4. Walter J. Perrig†

+Author Affiliations

1. *Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, East Hall, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043; and 2. †Department of Psychology, University of Bern, Muesmattstrasse 45, 3012 Bern, Switzerland


Edited by Edward E. Smith, Columbia University, New York, NY, and approved March 18, 2008 (received for review February 7, 2008)


Fluid intelligence (Gf) refers to the ability to reason and to solve new problems independently of previously acquired knowledge. Gf is critical for a wide variety of cognitive tasks, and it is considered one of the most important factors in learning. Moreover, Gf is closely related to professional and educational success, especially in complex and demanding environments. Although performance on tests of Gf can be improved through direct practice on the tests themselves, there is no evidence that training on any other regimen yields increased Gf in adults. Furthermore, there is a long history of research into cognitive training showing that, although performance on trained tasks can increase dramatically, transfer of this learning to other tasks remains poor. Here, we present evidence for transfer from training on a demanding working memory task to measures of Gf. This transfer results even though the trained task is entirely different from the intelligence test itself. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the extent of gain in intelligence critically depends on the amount of training: the more training, the more improvement in Gf. That is, the training effect is dosage-dependent. Thus, in contrast to many previous studies, we conclude that it is possible to improve Gf without practicing the testing tasks themselves, opening a wide range of applications."

* cognitive training * transfer * individual differences * executive processes * control processes

If you need a bit of backdrop for the idea that you can increase your IQ by doing the dual n back task, and that the more you practice the higher your IQ can go, please read this book, Brainfit for Life, by Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt, Ph.D., neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.

Their book discusses the above research and also offers resources about increasing brain power through brain fitness efforts.

Their work is written in an easily understandable format, with a sly sense of humor. Not jargony or technical.

It turns out that increasing brain power includes regular attention to what Evans and Burghardt call the Pillars of Brain Fitness, physical exercise, nutrition including enough Omega 3 fatty acid, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences.

When we build in attention to those tasks on a daily basis, our brains maximize their capacity for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, or the growth of new brain cells and the constant rewiring and reconnecting that happens with attention to novel learning experiences.

Evans and Burghardt and others in the field, notably Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., (one of the creators of the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program) indicate that the novel learning experience must provide specific kinds of feedback in a specific way to truely qualifiy as a novel learning experience.

What that means is that we cannot do more of the same. I cannot read another counseling book and hope to challenge my brain in a way that leads to increasing brain power.

I would need to learn a new instrument, a new language, take up painting, some new skill or use one of the new computerized brain fitness tools, like Mind Sparke or the Posit Science Brain Fitness program or Lumosity to provide the requisite novel learning experience.

But for all practical purposes, it is now possible to increase brain power through attention to the pillars of brain fitness, especially the novel learning experience using computerized brain fitness programs.

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