If you’re like most people you will think that if you have your IQ tested and score 100, you have ‘average intelligence’, – period. How smart you are, the story goes, is genetically hardwired and there is little you can do to alter your raw brain power. Some people are naturally smart: they learn quickly, grasp complex matters, problem solve effectively and make good decisions. While others have to work that bit harder and practice more, relying more on acquired expertise and conscientiousness to keep up.
I can tell you as a scientist that this is not true.
I’m Dr. Mark Ashton Smith, cognitive neuroscience Ph.D., and founder of IQ Mindware – an evidence based cognitive training provider. Cognitive neuroscience is the scientific field that is concerned with the brain’s neurobiology underlying cognition – how we perceive and know, decide and act, reason and comprehend.
I had seven years training and research at the Carnegie Mellon & University of Pittsburgh’s Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC) program. I lectured in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Cambridge University for three years before pursuing the mission of helping individuals and organizations through cognitive training interventions.
The Power of Neuroplasticity
The accumulated evidence is paints a clear picture about the power of adult neuroplasticity (ref 1, ref 2) You can train to rewire your brain – not just in in forming new memories or learning new skills, but in terms of core cognitive abilities, such as working memory. You can push your cognitive limits beyond your baseline, to learn faster, think & reason better, make better decisions, and attain more insight.
This recent (Feb 2018) study in the prestigious journal Intelligence, for example, shows high gains in fluid intelligence from the right kind of brain training program.
How to Start
Training for core neuroplasticity change requires commitment over a training period of around 4 weeks, 20 minutes a day. This gives enough time for significant cognitive gains.
I suggest you consider the following points, if you want to succeed with your program.
What are your cognitive goals or problems?
A useful first step in a successful program is to identify what goal or goals you want to achieve or problem to overcome. Maybe…
- Pushing your limits to attain maximum cognitive potential: upgrading yourself and expanding the bounds of what is possible.
- Cognitive enhancement for faster, more productive and innovative college or work performance.
- Developing resilience, focus and effectiveness under pressure. Functioning well under stress.
- Increase your psychometric IQ to 130 – Mensa Standard.
- Brain fitness for health & well-being (similar to wanting to be physically fit).
- Reversing or preventing cognitive decline with age.
- Wanting to overcome attention-related disorders.
What strategies will you adopt to attain your goals?
The strategies you adopt is going to greatly affect the outcomes. Here are some pointers.
1. Evidence-based training vs placebos
Many health and lifestyle blogs dabble in science and cherry pick supporting evidence. There is often no scientist, with the proper training behind the programs on offer, and can lead to misleading claims and misguided practices. Being able to sift through the evidence and construct programs based on good science is not easy.
Placebo : Definition. A placebo is a supposed cause of a real health or performance gain but isn’t. It could be a type of brain training, or supplement or some other intervention. What all placebos have in common is that any effect they have on health, resilience or performance is due to beliefs or expectations about the intervention, not to the impact of the intervention itself.
There is nothing wrong with placebo effects! The placebo can be effective in the short-term through the power of suggestion. Placebo pills made of nothing but sugar can actually help reduce pain if they are believed to be painkillers. Boosting confidence can help people do better on tests. But the training gains from genuine evidence-based training goes well beyond the placebo, resulting in a wide range of long-term neuroplasticity change (ref 3).
How can you judge what is ‘evidence-based’ training?
You need to reach your own judgements about this, but here are some common-sense pointers to help guide you:
- Science. Is there a trained scientist or lab behind the intervention or training program?
- Isolated Studies. Is there cherry picking of single studies or is there a whole body of research behind the intervention? Review papers that take into account a range of well-designed studies looking at a particular intervention are helpful here. Single published studies sometimes cannot be relied on – you need the bigger picture of accumulated evidence.
- Brand appeal. Does the training program rely primarily on branding, marketing, and buzzwords?
- Exaggeration. On reflection, are the claims made exaggerated, offering quick fixes or extraordinary gains?
For assessing the evidence yourself, general scientific reviews can be found at the Health, Resilience and Performance Lab website.
It can be helpful to work with a program that enables you to keep track of your training gains, from day-to-day, using clear performance metrics. Not to compare with others if you don’t want this, but to enable you to keep an objective sense of where you are at – much in the same way that runners or cyclists may use Strava and other fitness trackers.
3. Education & Learning
I recommend programs that not only result in real neuroplasticity effects and IQ gains, but that are educational – that inform you about your own brain mechanisms in the process. Cognitive neuroscience is a fascinating science, intersecting with lots of new technologies that are helping augment health, resilience and performance. Better training programs will introduce you to many of the key principles helping you understand how your IQ increase occurs.
i3 Mindware is an evidence-based IQ increase app and training program with supplementary eBooks and tutorials.
i3’s gCore module integrates two well-established scientific brain training interventions in one game I call Gated Dual N-Back (or 2G+ DNB);
- Working memory training (classic dual n-back)
- Executive control training (attention control and flexibility, interference control and speed of processing)
Evidence for IQ increasing neuroplasticity rewiring and tuning in intelligence-related brain networks of each of these methods is reviewed here and here. i3 Mindware’s innovative game design integrates both of them, resulting in a synergy that is more effective in increasing IQ than either alone.
The IQ increasing effect of this kind of training (in combination with exercise) is demonstrated in this 2018 study (see Figure below)
The brain rewiring effects of this kind of training are summarized in this figure (click twice to enlarge).
The Mindware module gives you 40 optional sets of systematically constructed full scale IQ test problems to enable you to develop useful strategies for fluid reasoning (Gf), visuospatial intelligence (Gv), comprehension-knowledge (Gc), and quantitative intelligence (Gq).
The HRP Lab Test Battery module provides you with an optional selection of short, well-known scientifically valid tests for a broad spectrum of IQ and executive function related cognitive abilities. With this you can chart your progress and prove your objective training gains.
Whether you use the HRP Lab Test Battery or external IQ tests we provide links to, we guarantee a 10-20 IQ increase as a result of training – or your money back!
For i3 Mindware specs and purchase options click the button.
Good luck with your training goals.