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Brain Training - Can It Increase IQ?
by Martin G. Walker

When French psychologist Alfred Binet designed the first standardized intelligence test, he felt strongly that an IQ score shouldn't become a label. Binet feared that a low IQ score could affect a person's self esteem as well as the opinions of others. But it wasn't long before people were using IQ test scores to categorize and discriminate. Henry Goddard, who popularized IQ testing in the US, held that low IQ was caused by a recessive gene. Goddard's views echoed those of the American public at the time, who worried that a disproportionate number of immigrants were of low intelligence.

The concept of a fixed, immutable level of intelligence soon entered mainstream consciousness. And despite numerous studies showing that many factors can affect IQ scores over time, the idea that we're stuck with the intelligence we're born with persists, even with many psychologists and educators.

Which means, of course, that we should be able to take steps to increase our IQ. But until a remarkable study made public in April of 2008, no one had any clue how to do it.

Increasing Intelligence With Working-Memory Training
Last year, Graeme Halford, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Queensland, theorized that as we work on a mental task, our brain has a finite degree of processing power. It divides this processing power, Halford suggested, between managing our short term memory (known as working-memory in this application) and fluid intelligence, or problem-solving functions. The more we have to think about what we need to remember, the less we can focus on solving the problem.

This idea prompted a team of researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Bern to determine whether it would be possible to increase fluid intelligence by training working-memory. The greater our working-memory capacity, the less processing power it would consume. The scientists devised a novel training protocol that would progressively stretch and strengthen visual and aural working-memory with a single exercise.

To measure fluid intelligence the researchers employed questions from a standard IQ test. The study recorded significant increases in fluid intelligence in all participants compared to a control group who weren't trained. After only 19 days of training, each participant in the trained group (as compared to the control group) improved on the fluid intelligence test by more than 40%.

When the results of this study were published in April, they garnered a lot of attention in the media and the scientific community. But the biggest reaction came from people who read about the results and wanted to try the training for themselves. (In the interests of full disclosure, my company has released a commercial version of the training. Feedback from those who've used the training at home have confirmed the researchers' findings; some even taking before and after IQ tests on their own dime and recording substantial increases in IQ scores on full-scale certified tests.)

With this groundbreaking study we can at last leave behind us the concept of immutable intelligence. I've no doubt that Alfred Binet would be pleased to see his principles vindicated, even though it took more than a century to come about. Learn more: increasing fluid intelligence by training working-memory. Martin Walker is a member of The British Neuroscience Association, Learning and The Brain, and MENSA. Mind Evolve, LLC publishes free information on the field of neuroscience and brain training, as well as effective, affordable brain fitness software under the Mind Sparke brand.

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