Let me start off by making this as clear as I possibly can, it is possible to increase your intelligence and there is research to prove it.
For a long time, the prevailing view has been that increasing your intelligence was impossible. It was believed that your IQ along with most mental capabilities was largely by genetic factors, and although it could be influenced by a stimulating environment while growing up, once you reached adulthood it was locked into place, only to gradually decline with age.
Neuroscience research from the last two decades has shown that this is not the case. What these scientists have discovered is that the brain can grow new cells and reconfigure itself when confronted with new challenges, this is known as neuroplasticity.
Below are some of the proven methods to increase IQ:
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (often abbreviated as tDCS) is based on the idea that you can stimulate specific areas within the brain by passing a small electric current across the area using non-invasive electrically conducting pads placed on the scalp. Crucially there are robust safety protocols which show the practice is entirely safe.
The technique was developed to help patients who had experienced a stroke, brain injury or suffered from learning difficulties. More recent research in healthy adults has shown the technique can also be used to enhance cognitive performance.
By directing the current to specific regions of the brain, participants were able to gain improvements in a diverse range of areas including; maths ability, problem solving, languages, attention/focus, coordination, and memory.
In case you haven’t heard of them before Nootropics are any drugs, supplements or regular foods that improve mental functioning. Now these can be as simple as Omega-3 rich oily fish like Salmon, or those student food favorites like Walnuts and Blueberries which are full of essential brain beneficial vitamins. And if you’re looking to give your body the basic building blocks it needs for neurogenesis (growing new brain cells and neural connections) these are a must have.
However, there are several pharmaceutical products available that can also increase mental functioning, either by improving synaptic plasticity or by increasing the production of key neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and acetylcholine.
It is worth remembering that any pharmacologically active drug can have unwanted side effects. If you are considering using any of these to improve your IQ you should discuss this with a doctor first.
There is a very comprehensive list of nootropic drugs available on the ‘Nootropics’ Wikipedia page so I won’t bother repeating it here.
Cognitive Training Exercises
When most of us think of increasing our IQ, simple ‘brain training’ style exercises you can do at home is what you have in mind. Many companies have promoted various brain training software, however, in the vast majority of cases, these games are not effective at increasing IQ, only at increasing your ability to play that specific game.
Fortunately, there are several researched exercises which have been shown to give real, lasting, transferrable rising in working memory, fluid intelligence, and IQ scores.
The Dual N-Back exercise is one such technique. In a 2008 study by Jaeggi et al at the University of Michigan titled Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory, the Dual N-back exercise was shown to give ‘dose dependent’ improvements in fluid intelligence. Dose-dependent just means the more the participants used the technique, the bigger improvements they got.
In a nutshell, this is how the N-back exercise works. You are presented with a series of letters one after another and must identify when the current letter is identical to one that was already presented a certain number of items ago in the series. This number is the ‘N’ in N-back So let’s say you were presented with this series below and were looking for matches that were 2-back:
Q S T S R T H
The second time you saw the letter S you would say it appeared two steps ago (2-back).
The Dual N-back works on exactly the same principle only it is slightly more challenging. This time instead of only one series to keep track of you have two. First the series of letters as above, and a the same time a series of spatial locations on a 3×3 grid.
If you manage to keep track of both series at least 80% of the time the exercise increases ‘N’ by one, and you go to the 3-back level. If you don’t score at least 40% then ‘N’ reduces by one. By continually adapting to your performance the game keeps you working at the edge of your ability, ensuring your brain gets a good workout.
Full disclosure, I do these exercises while taking a brain booster called Adderin. You can read more about it by clicking the button below.