Dual N-Back Game

Dual N-back or n-back game is a brain training game which helps improve working memory and fluid intelligence. The n-back brain game focuses concentration by typically displaying a figure on a board, the figure then appears in different positions and the player has to remember the position of the figure one turn or two turns back. Hence the name N-back training.

When we say, fluid intelligence, we are referring to the ability of a person (adult or child) to reason and to solve new problems independently of previously acquired knowledge. Fluid intelligence is critical for a wide variety of cognitive tasks, and it is considered one of the most important factors in learning. Also, fluid intelligence is related to professional and educational success, especially in complex and demanding environments.

Working memory is also important in the learning process and for general intelligence. Working memory can be described as ‘how much information or data a person can think about at the same time’. N-back training is now widely used in psychological, educational, clinical, and medical settings. RaiseYourIQ has developed its own version of n-back training which is played in conjunction with SMART brain training to improve the overall intelligence as measured by IQ of our users. Psychologists also utilize SMART Brain Training with RaiseYourIQ dual n-back to improve the focus of people with ADHD.

At RaiseYourIQ, our brain training is scientifically proven to improve IQ and general intelligence and we include dual n back training for free.

Psychologists split intelligence into two types: the first being “crystallized intelligence” which is all about how to knowledge (put to use when you type); and the second being “fluid intelligence” which is about problem solving and reasoning.

N – Back training targets the most elemental of cognitive skills: “working memory”. While long-term memory benefits crystallized intelligence, working memory benefits fluid intelligence. Working memory is more than just the ability to remember a phone number long enough to dial it; it is the brains capacity to manipulate the information in the head — to add or subtract numbers, place them in reverse order or sort them from high to low. Understanding a metaphor or an analogy is equally dependent on working memory; you can’t follow even a simple statement like “See Brad dance” if you can’t put together how “see” and “Brad” connect with “dance.” Without it, you can’t make sense of anything.

Finding a way to increase cognitive abilities has appeal not just in education but in business and clinical settings. Today, professional people have begun training their working memory in hopes of boosting their fluid intelligence and with it, their job performance. Fluid intelligence was not just another life or learning skill; it is the cognitive ability underlying all mental skills. So n-back training is more than just tapping randomly at figures on a computer screen, it is the opportunity to increase intelligence and improve working memory. For a free trial and to access over 4 free brain games, why not sign up to RaiseYourIQ today and start increasing brain fitness.

Brain training and brain fitness blog from RaiseYourIQ

Articles from psychologists on brain training, brain fitness, intelligence, improving memory, raising IQ and brain health developments in science.

Brain training increases IQ and Scholastic Ability

A new study reported at a recent Contextual Behavioral Science (Ireland) conference, found that an intensive online form of brain training called SMART brain training, lead to large increases in general intelligence (IQ) in a sample of 15 children, and to large increases in general scholastic ability in a further sample of 30 children.

Improve Memory

Improve Memory Memory is essential for intellectual functioning, so is it possible to improve memory so we can remember details or where problem solving comes more easily? One school of thought from theorists on intelligence believes that there are limits on IQ and memory improvement a person can achieve. Modern psychology on the other hand has shown through…

Brain Training Games

Brain Training Games There are a number of brain training games and brain exercises like Dual N Back and SMART brain training that works to improve mental health. Any person of any age from a kid to an adult can use brain training games to have fun while improving memory,language skills and fluid intelligence. Brain training games while an engaging leisure activity …

Increase Intelligence

Increase Intelligence Can a person increase or improve intelligence or are there factors imposed by biology that constrains IQ or memory gains. Well, psychologists at NUIM University have shown with published research that IQ can indeed be raised (see Cassidy, Roche & Hayes, 2011) and that the IQ increases have a permanent effect (Roche, Cassidy &Stewart, 201…

Brain Training For Seniors and Older Adults.

Brain Training For Seniors and Older Adults. Brain Training can benefit seniors, the elderly and adults to improve cognitive abilities and maintain a sharper mind. The reality is (and scientifically proven) that the brain starts deteriorating with age, and the process of ageing begins from as early as mid-adulthood. Today, seniors are becoming aware that they need to take care with their …

SMART Brain Training Presentation to Association For Contextual Behavioral Science

SMART Brain Training Presentation to Association For Contextual Behavioral Science At this year’s 2014 Australia/New Zealand annual conference for Contextual Behavioral Science, keynote speaker Dr. Bryan Roche, of Maynooth University, Ireland and co-founder of RaiseYourIQ, outlined the evidence for a new online intellectual skills training programme, called the SMART brain training programme, that can increase IQ or intelligen…

Cognitive Brain training

Cognitive Brain training Cognitive brain training is about giving the brain a workout or sending it to a brain gym to improve fitness levels. The actual doing of cognitive brain training will entail a series of “brain games” or intellectual tasks the person practices to improve learning and general cognitive functions, such as memory, information processing speed and at…

Brain Games

Brain Games The brain games industry is full of punch lines like “Give your brain a workout” or “Games that sharpen your mind”, punch lines that have little scientific evidence or academic research to support the claims. The brain games industry has been hijacked by software gaming companies hoping to sell thousands of apps leaving the real science based br…

Learning Games

Learning Games Learning and education is a continued part of our life journey. For kids, parents and teachers strive to make it fun and challenging. Learning games fits into the area of neuroscience and education as game-based-learning grows in popularity not just in education but in health and business. Psychologists and educationalists understand more about …

Brain Training Helps The Brain To Focus

Brain Training Helps The Brain To Focus New scientific research proves computer-based brain training exercises significantly improve the brains ability to focus and so learn more. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about one in 10 school children suffers from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who may carry this into their adult life. Linked to measurable …

Brain Training – Science Over Marketing

Brain Training - Science Over Marketing When discussing brain training, people should not confuse silly marketing claims for bad science. Brain training is probably one of the fastest growing sections in modern psychology. To put this in context, we are talking about the development of low cost software products, apps or games that claim to be able to increase peoples intelligence or …

Brain Training

Brain Training If you are considering brain training either as a game or serious intellectual skills course to help your IQ test scores and brain fitness then this article may provide you with information of what exactly brain training is. RaiseYourIQ is the only scientifically proven brain training course to improve mental performance and raise your IQ by 20 …

Falling Literacy and Numeracy Levels

Falling Literacy and Numeracy Levels As an education company passionate about brain fitness in adults and children we are concerned about falling literacy rates here and in other developed nations. Is there an over reliance in our school system on content based learning. OECD studies have found falling literacy and numeracy rates amongst children across affluent economies like the …

New research into the benefits of SMART training

New research into the benefits of SMART training RaiseYourIQ presents new research into the benefits of SMART training

RaiseYourIQ presented new research evidence for the benefits of SMART training at the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Ireland Branch, Annual Research Day on May 17th 2013 in St. James’s Hospital, Dublin. Dr. Sarah Cassidy presented data in poster form tha…

Enormous Media and Public Interest in RaiseYourIQ.com

Enormous Media and Public Interest in RaiseYourIQ.com The recent launch on May 2nd of RaiseYourIQ.com has generated enormous media and public attention in Ireland, where the product was first developed. Our online SMART training product, which is offered as a form of intellectual skills training, has been shown to raise general intelligence as well as help with several intellectual difficulties, a…

New Book On Relational Skills Launched

New Book On Relational Skills Launched We are delighted to announce the release of a new book Advances in Relational Frame Theory, by one of our Directors Dr. Bryan Roche.

The book is co-edited with Dr. Simon Dymond of Swansea University. It outlines the growing scientific support for the theory underlying SMART IQ training, which is provided online at RaiseYourIQ.com.
You can rea…

IQ Tests are not fair

IQ Tests are not fair Research conducted by Professor Adrian M. Owen of Western University, Canada, and recently published in the neuroscience journal Neuron, has corroborated many studies that point to the fact that intelligence is made up of several components such as short-term memory, reasoning and language ability. Because we all differ in our skill levels in t…

Free SMART Download for Parents and Teachers

Free SMART Download for Parents and Teachers At RaiseYourIQ.com we care about the intelligence levels of the world. That is why we are giving away this free resource that you can use to increase your own intelligence or the intelligence of your kids. This resource will be useful to teachers, parents, and anyone who cares to reach their intellectual potential. The resource is a .pdf file…

Brain training games don’t work

Brain training games don't work Brain training games don’t work, they might be fun but the paying customer wants more than fun, they want to raise intelligence levels (IQ) to help them in their education,work and life. All those brain training gaming products mentioning the word “brain” and featuring Professors in the logo could not possibly make you Smarter. Your intelligen…

Idea that intelligence cannot be raised is negative psychology

Idea that intelligence cannot be raised is negative psychology A modern psychological approach to human intelligence focuses on the exploration of human potential, rather than its limits. This is a positive and progressive approach to understanding and improving the human condition. From a behavioral psychology perspective, IQ tests simply measure the speed and accuracy with which an individual can perfor…

Educational Interventions can Raise Your IQ

Educational Interventions can Raise Your IQ Many psychologists once believe that IQ is fixed at birth, but that is an outdated position based on ideology as much as on bad science. Mounting evidence has been coming in over the past two decades that your IQ in both kids and adults can rise as a result of increased educational exposure and if people engage in brain training exercises.

The…

Can Brain Training Work for Seniors

Can brain training work for seniors or people advancing in age?. Research seems to now prove that brain training or some form of cognitive training can benefit seniors, the elderly and adults to improve the brains functions. As any doctor wil point out, the brain will deteriorate as we age, and the process of ageing can begin as early as mid-adulthood. Today, senior people are alert to the fact that they need to take care with their mental health to reduce the risk of cognitive diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

brain-scan

No matter what age or stage of life, people never stop learning and the brain never stops processing information. In recent published articles from a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) it was found that brain training conducted by older adults had positive effects on the brain that could last for ten years. Science has demonstrated that keeping the brain active as people age can be beneficial not just for cognitive functioing but to overall health aswell.

Brain training exercises need not be stressful for older people says RaiseYourIQ founder Doctor Bryan Roche, an author and who also lectures in “Interventions to enhance intellectual skills” at NUIM University. Doctor Roche’s support for brain training is backed up by his research interest in the experimental analysis of complex human behavior and in particular in the analysis of language and cognitive processes vis-à-vis Relational Frame Theory (RFT).  He employs the concepts of Relational Frame Theory in social psychological research into implicit testing the development of teaching protocols to enhance general cognitive functioning

Brain training and cognitive training should help seniors and adults to continue to learn and enhance the brains ability to processes information. These “relational brain training skills” teaches a range of crucial relational skills that help to sharpen intellectual and cognitive ability in people of any age. When these skills are improved, the scientific research suggests, all intellectual tasks come easier. It can help seniors and adults make sense of new information the mind encounters while also helping people to think more clearly.

Research being carried out at Johns Hopkins University, Baylor College of Medicine, and NUIM University along with other universities into brain training science for seniors and adults is shattering the myth that seniors, and older people, can’t learn new information. The real life benefits into cognitive training is that people who participate in brain training exercises report they have an easier time with daily activities such as managing medications, cooking meals or handling financial matters. The brain training programs they interact with are focused on teaching strategies to improve cognitive performance, like memory training to teach seniors how to remember names or lists or reasoning training to help older people recognize number sequences.

Brain training for seniors has become an important part of mental and life wellbeing. Other studies have shown that seniors who are cognitively active are 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia than those who are not. This is not a scare statistic but one that might encourage older adults to consider taking some time in their weekly routine to sharpen the cognitive skills.

As people age, there is a tendency to concentrate on diet like eating healthier food and doing light physical exercises to be in shape however scientists point out that some amount of brain activity is also needed for a more complete lifestyle that supports the ageing process. Brain training is not time demanding, in fact just spending 20 to 30 minutes a day on playing brain games to keep the brain active and agile will see changes that last a decade. Brain training for seniors will be a habit that sees them stay sharp for a longer time leading to a longer self-reliable life.

Information Boosts Brain Health

Information boosts brain health as psychologists will testify that curiosity is good for the brain on a number of levels. Curiosity actually stimulates our intellectual functioning and benefits our brain health. Some experts in the field of psychology have also posited that a healthy dose of curiosity may be the key to leading a happier, more meaningful and fulfilled life.

The brain loves information and  scientists now know that our brain cannot malfunction due to “excessive curiosity”. Here are the reasons why.

1. Your brain is a work-horse.

The more you exercise it, the healthier and more efficient it will be. In fact, if you want to really train your brain and increase your intellectual ability, stoking your curiosity about the world is one of the best ways to achieve that.

2. Your brain is not a computer.

In the 70s, the cognitive branch of psychology was dominant and scientists saw all of human development in terms of a computer-based metaphor of a brain as information processor. The information processing approach (see Woolfolk, Hughes & Walkup, 2008) saw the mind as a machine that takes in information, performs operations to change its form and content, stores the information, retrieves it when needed, and generates responses to it. So learning, remembering and thinking involve gathering information, encoding, storage and retrieval. This is a useful analogy in many ways and it makes it easy for people to understand how information might be processed by the brain. The problem with it is that people then assume that the brain actually is a computer, with only as much memory storage or capacity as is available on the hard drive. If the hard drive doesn’t have enough capacity, then you need a new one that is bigger, better or faster.  This is a very limiting view of our brain’s capabilities and some have called it a form of “negative psychology”.

human-brain

3. We don’t know the limits of human learning.

We may never know them. Thankfully, many psychologists have eschewed the notion that our brain has limited storage capacity which is great news for the whole field of education as well as for the curious natured individual. A nice illustration of this can be seen in Psychologist Steve Hayes’ (1993) discussion of Lerner’s (1993) epigenetic approach to human development. Lerner argued that there may exist predetermined genetic limits to human development. But Hayes explained that because we know that stimulating environments can help to make us smarter, there are no limits to our intellectual development until they have been reached. These limits can only be reached through exhaustive attempts to create ever more exceptionally stimulating environments.

In Hayes’ (1993) words; “Lerner seems too quick to say how high pygmies can grow or how well a person with Down syndrome can do. There presumably are such limits, but we cannot know them when we have reached them”.

4. Scientists have learned a lot by being curious.

We used to think that persons with Down Syndrome would never present with measured IQ scores of more than 60, but now many persons with this genetic condition have received excellent intervention and high standards of teaching in enriched environments and are now capable of attending college. Thirty years ago the only outcome for persons presenting with Down Syndrome when, for example, their families could no longer care for them was to be institutionalised in a state care facility. Now many are living completely independently while others enjoy various levels of assisted or partially independent living and working environments. This only happened because the so called “limits” were pushed by psychologist that did not believe that curiosity can kill a cat.

In order to develop the range of powerful educational methods that have enriched the lives of those with Down syndrome, scientists themselves needed to be curious about what might happen if you continually enriched the educational environment of someone with a developmental difficulty. Isn’t this the way all great scientific breakthroughs occur? In the latter example, the curiosity of psychologists about the intellectual “limits” of someone with Down Syndrome actually improved people’s lives. Thankfully those psychologists had not believed the old feline cliché when they were young.

5. Neurogenesis.

Neurogenesis is the stimulation of brain growth. It is the process by which neurons are generated from neural stem cells and progenitor cells. Most of this neural activity happens during pre-natal development, but we also know that it continues to happen throughout the lifespan. It is now a well-established phenomenon and we often hear about it in the context of brain training software used for older adults who may be experiencing some level of cognitive decline or for anyone who simply wants to increase their IQ. Indeed there is much evidence supporting the efficacy of brain training interventions in studies examining its effects on stroke recovery and management of dementia in the elderly (e.g., Smith et al., 2009).  Some of the intellectual skills improved by such training are very important foundational skills like memory and attention that had perhaps been quite well developed at an earlier time in the person’s life (see also Ball et al. 2002). The important point here is that the stimulation of specific brain regions through brain training supports ongoing growth and development in areas of the brain which are important for intellectual pursuits.

6. Brain Training has been shown to improve intelligence.

In a groundbreaking 2011 study conducted at the University of Michigan, and widely reported in the media, Susan Jaeggi, John Jonides and colleagues reported improvements in one aspect of intelligence known as fluid intelligence that the researchers achieved for their research volunteers by having them engage regularly in a brain training task known as the n-back procedure. Another research study conducted in Ireland (Cassidy, Roche & Hayes, 2011) reported significant IQ rises as a result of an intensive computerized “relational skills” brain training program. These large IQ increases were maintained 4 years later without any further intervention (see Roche, Cassidy & Stewart, 2013). Both of these studies moved people’s intellectual ability well beyond its assumed limits- without any disastrous consequences for anyone!  (For more research in this area visit this brain training science). So it appears that there may indeed be no real limit to our ability to develop our minds. This kind of research pushes the boundaries of what many experimental psychologists and brain scientists thought were the limits of learning.

7. Curiosity can help us to lead more fulfilling lives.

Our brain is naturally curious and as I have argued, it cannot fill up because it is infinitely “malleable” or “plastic”, like play dough. Learning never stops, and we continue to learn and develop across the whole lifespan. One of the key ingredients to keeping that development on an upward trajectory is to nurture your native curiosity. The Psychologist Todd Kashdan wrote a whole book on the topic called The Curiosity Advantage, in which he presents the evidence that our brains are infinitely expandable, and that curious people lead more fulfilling lives. Kashdan is not talking merely about healthy cognitive development, but extols the virtues of curiosity for our mental health and our emotional well-being, too. And here is an important paradox he outlined. Too many of us have been sold on the idea that enjoying ourselves and being happy is the only, or most important, goal in life. But, instead of chasing happiness, Kashdan outlines the evidence that we should focus on trying to create a rich and meaningful life, guided by core values and interests. We can do this by chasing up the things that make us curious in every area of life.

According to Kashdan, “The greatest advantage of curiosity is that by spending time with the new, increased neurological connections are made possible. Facts and experiences are synthesised into a web, paving the way for greater intelligence and wisdom. We become more efficient when making future decisions. We become better at visualising the relativity of seemingly disparate ideas, paving the way for greater creativity.  It is the neurological equivalent of personal growth. New pathways in the brain are inevitable when you seek out new information and experiences and integrate them into the previously known.”  (p. 57).

8. Being curious increases our “flow”.

Kashdan’s ideas fit perfectly with what neuroscientists have been telling us about keeping our environments “stimulating”.  But Kashdan adds the important advice that by being fully engaged with life, we also derive more happiness from it – as a pleasant by-product. Positive psychologists call this state of total immersion in whatever fulfils you “flow”. The concept of flow was the brainchild of Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, (1990) who used it to refer to a genuinely satisfying state of consciousness, which is the optimal human experience. You are in a state of “flow” when you are so deeply and effortlessly involved in what you are doing that you forget all else. Flow activities challenge you and engage you with all your senses and all your being. Flow activities are not necessarily enjoyable when you are doing them (e.g., competing in a swimming competition or staying up all night studying) because they really and truly push you to your limits, but the sense of accomplishment you gain from doing them is what leads to you feeling so happy and so positive about the experience in the aftermath.

So being curious is about being engaged with your environment in a deep and meaningful way. It is about chasing the things that interest and stimulate us. It is about doing these things to the best of our abilities. Being curious is not about being nosy or getting involved in other people’s business. Being curious is about increasing our quality of life in all domains. Being curious is a good thing. In fact, it is a great thing.

Doctor Sarah Cassidy

Dr. Sarah Cassidy is an educational psychologist, behaviour therapist and mother of three. She provides assessment/treatment for children with learning and emotional/behavioural difficulties in school systems and in private practice. She lectures in educational psychology, child development and early childhood education at National University of Ireland. She is a professional member of the American Psychological Association, the National Educational Psychological Service and founder /Chief Education Officer at RaiseYourIQ.

Brain training for Children

Brain training is suitable for children over eight years of age right up to students as it helps to raise IQ, making learning easier and inso assisting children in their education. The idea that our Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is an inherited trait and cannot be improved has now been discard by most educational psychologists.

Recent and publicly visible studies published in highly reputable journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, report large and even long-lasting IQ gains by research volunteers who practice a brain-training type task called the dual n-back task.  This research program, run by John Jonides and colleagues at the University of Michigan, has found improvements in objective measures of fluid intelligence (one important aspect of intelligence) resulting from this form of brain training.

Even giants of intelligence research such as Robert Sternberg, have come around to the idea that intelligence is highly manipulable, subject to social opportunity, up-bringing, educational opportunity, and motivation. Moreover, such academics as Sternberg have argued that the nature-nurture debate it itself often misunderstood and the critical role of environment downplayed as a result a widespread misunderstanding of the concept of ‘hertiability’ as it applies to intelligence (see his book Intelligence and How to Get It).

Brain training for Children

 The RaiseYourIQ intellectual skills intervention is called SMART training (Strengthening Mental Abilities with Relational Training). We do not teach children and students anything that they can use in their examinations (e.g., how to multiply, the capital of Canada). Instead a RaiseYourIQ course will teach the foundational reasoning skills crucial to vocabulary acquisition and mathematical reasoning. In effect, we are giving kids, students and adults the tools to learn more effectively. Moreover our training re-mediates deficits in these skills bases that cannot be taught at school efficiently without extensive one-to-one assistance, plus SMART can even help children to catch up to and even surpass the population average in intellectual ability. The SMART brain training course can act as a springboard from which future learning occurs across all age groups. Brain training for Children.

IQ Tests

IQ tests and the testing of intelligence levels was devised by French psychologists in the early 1900s to help describe differences in how well and quickly children learn at school. Defined loosely, intelligence refers to our ability to learn quickly and adapt to new situations. IQ tests measure vocabulary, ability to problem-solve, reason logically and so on. IQ scores were only interesting because it was thought that IQ was fixed for life.

The standard IQ tests used by clinical psychologists for diagnostic purposes, such as the Weschler scale, are designed in such a way that it is not easy to prepare for them. The contents are kept surprisingly secret and they are changed regularly. The score given for an individual is a relative one, adjusted based on the performance of people of the same age.

brain-training-iq

But even as we become better educated and more skillful at the types of tasks measured on IQ tests (a phenomenon known as the “Flynn effect”, after James Fylnn who first noted it) our IQs stay pretty much the same. This is because the IQ scoring system takes into account the amount of improvement expected over time, and then discounts it. This type of score is called a “standardised score” – it hides your true score and merely represents your standing in relation to your peers who have also been getting smarter at about the same rate.

This apparent stability in IQ scores makes intelligence look relatively constant, whereas in fact we are all becoming more intelligent across and within our lifetimes. The IQ test and the IQ scoring system are constantly adjusted to ensure that the average IQ remains at 100, despite a well-noted increase in intellectual ability worldwide.

The idea that a kids or adults IQ is fixed for life is built into the questionable politics of IQ testing. The most serious consequence of this is the use of IQ tests to blame educational difficulties on students rather than on teaching systems. But it is the job of psychologists to find better ways to teach, not to find better ways to justify the poor performance of students. This particular use of IQ tests has caused one leader in the field of intelligence research, Robert Sternberg, to refer to IQ testing as “negative psychology” in a 2008 article.

IQ Can Be Improved

Those who still beleive that IQ is fixed for life have managed to ignore decades of published research in the field of applied behaviour analysis. This has reported very large IQ gains in children with autism who have been exposed to early intensive behavioural interventions once they have been diagnosed with learning difficulties. Another 2009 Norwegian study examined the effects of an increase in the duration of compulsory schooling in Norway in the 1960s which lengthened the time in education for Norwegians by two years. The researchers used records of cognitive ability taken by the military to calculate the IQ of each individual in the study. They found that IQ had increased by 3.7 points for every extra year of education received. More recent studies by John Jonides and his colleagues at the University of Michigan reported improvements in objective measures of intelligence for those who practised a brain-training task called the “n-back task” – a kind of computerised memory test.

As a co-founder of RaiseYourIQ and the SMART brain training course,  Doctor Bryan Roche has conduced his own research, in the field of relational frame theory, which has shown that understanding relations between words, such as “more than”, “less than” or “opposite” is crucial for our intellectual development. One recent pilot study showed that IQ scores can be raised by 20-30 points by training children in relational language skills tasks over a period of months. Again, this finding challenges the idea that intelligence is fixed for life.

Now is the time to dispell the idea that IQ as a trait that cannot be changed. Undoubtedly, there may be some limits to the development of our intellectual skills. But in the short term, the socially responsible thing to do is not to feel bound by those limits, but to help every child work towards and maximize their intellectual ability. Read more science into RaiseYourIQ.

Brian Health Improvement

The web is full of claims on how to improve brain health or how to train your brain to be sharper. This article is about separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to dispensing brain health advice. These ten tips on improving brain health for a happier life all have some evidence in their favor. As we work our way down we outline the techniques that are backed up with hard evidence.

 Quit smoking

Not smoking is one of the first steps you can take to improve your brain health. But smoking is not just any old bad habit. One Archives of Internal Medicine study published in 2010 followed 21,123 smokers from 1978 to 2008. Those people who smoked more than two packets of cigarettes a day had twice the rate of dementia when they were older. This was true even when the researchers accounted for other factors that could explain the results, such as education level, race, age, diabetes, heart disease and substance abuse. Those who smoked between half and one pack a day had a 44% increased risk of developing dementia.   Even the lowest level of smoker had a 37% increased risk.   The good news is that those people in the study how used to smoke, but had stopped, had no increased risk of dementia and had normal brain functioning into old age.

 Have good relationships

One particular form of memory that we practice in relationships of all kinds is known as “transactive” memory – a concept first developed by psychologist Daniel Wegner in 1985. This is a form of memory in which we become expert in one particular type of information and often have sole responsibility for it. For example, at a party your spouse may be excellent at remembering someone’s job and taste in music once she is introduced, but she may be close to useless at remembering faces and names and even if she has met someone before. So couples often work as a team, with each being relied upon to be expert in their area of talent. While each partner may struggle without the other, together they appear to have no problems at all remembering anything in social situations. And so each partner benefits from the relationship in never feeling forgetful in social situations.

 And it turns out that the more diverse your friends are in type, the more they challenge you to think creatively. They provide you with information you would not normally have and they give you different perspectives on everything. Your friends figuratively keep your mind open.

 Think positive

There is a well-known effect in the psychology of education referred to as the “Pygmalion effect” (after the Greek myth Pygmalion) whereby teachers, often unknowingly, expect more of particular children, who then in turn strive to meet those expectations. This effect is so well known that is referred to by psychologists as the Rosenthal-Jacobsen 1968 finding after the two psychologists who first discovered it.

 In other words, if we set high standards for ourselves and are helped believe achieving them is possible, they become possible. On the other hand, children who are made to feel that there is little point in them trying to give up easily and do not reach their potential.

 In one study, psychologists taught members of an educationally disadvantaged community to believe that it is possible to become more intelligent. The children from that group showed improved mathematical ability compared to a comparable group of children who were not encouraged to raise their expectations of what is possible. So positive attitude counts.

 Get good quality Sleep

The brain does not shut off when we are asleep. There is a lot of work going on while you sleep and much of it involves consolidating the learning that took place during the day (see work by Walker, Stickgold, Alsop, Gaab, & Schlaug, 2005). Psychologists have long understood that our dreams, for example, are really just a reflection of all the work our brains are doing trying to make sense of all the information we have been taking in but have not yet fully interpreted and made sense of. So if this is true, you can solve problems and make of sense of things by “sleeping on it”. On the other hand, if you do not sleep properly, you can lose the benefit of your learning experiences. You also will not learn as well the following day. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to benefit fully and perform at their cognitive peak each day. However, this method of keeping your mind sharp only makes number seven because there are now some scientific doubts about the importance of what is known as “sleep consolidation” (see work by Vertes in the journal Neuron, 2004).

 Eat Well

There are quite a range of food ingredients that are good for your brain and no end of marketing experts who will try to sell you the extracted ingredient in pill form or added to yoghurt. But the truth is that many food components can increase our mental functioning. Ginko Bilboa (extracted from the Ginko tree) has good effects on memory. Vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, some berries, and the omega 3 oils found in oily fish (and some grains) appear to improve memory and overall brain function, as do green teas and protein in general.   Protein, which we take in through meat, eggs and beans and peas (pulses) contain high levels of amino acids, such as tyrosine, which in turn cause neurons to produce the very important neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which are associated with mental alertness.

 The evidence is getting clearer on the effects of healthy diet and breast-feeding for an increased IQ.  Mothers who breast feed their babies for more than just a few weeks provide them with essential Omega 3 fatty acids that are generally not available in baby formula.  The same essential oils are also found in fresh fish, so kids fed plenty of fresh food and grains, including fresh fish from as early as possible, have higher IQs than kids fed on formula and processed food. Perhaps the best evidence for this comes for a gold standard Randomized Controlled Trial study published in the Journal Pediatrics by Helland, Smith, Saarem, Saugstad, & Drevon in 2003. That study compared the IQs of children fed on Omega-3 enhanced milk formula compared to those who were not. The researchers found that the IQs of the Omega-3 fed children were several points higher at four years of age – long after milk feeding had stopped.

 A child’s IQ is also helped by the diet of the mother, especially in the last trimester. If the mother eats a healthy diet high in omega 3 oils AND feeds her infant well, that infant will gain several IQ points that will last a lifetime. A mother and infant diet based on processed meals and processed foods like fizzy drinks, cheap breads and cakes, will actually reduce your child’s IQ below its expected level.

Mediate

In recent years psychologists have become more interested in some ancient wisdom around mindfulness and mediation. Some impressive evidence has sated to come in that these practices improve our physical and mental health. Meditation techniques vary widely, but they all have in common some form of stillness, focus on breathing, and achieving calm.

 Research is showing that mediation improves concentration and memory.   Studies have also tracked the growth in important brain areas associated with intelligent thinking over time as research participants practiced meditation. In one study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Professor Eileen Luders of UCLA reported that long-term meditators were found to have larger amounts of gyrification or “folding” of the brain cortex. The researchers did not prove it directly, but this process should allow the brain to process information faster and more efficiently. Another study by the same researchers and published in the Journal Neuroimage in 2009 found that those of us who meditate have more cell density in the hippocampus (associated with memory) and frontal lobes (associated with forward planning and control of behavior).

 Stress prevents good learning and it is designed to do so. The stress response prioritizes immediate information and actually shortens attention span. However, in order to think intelligently we need to think more broadly, and in a considered way. This is not possible when we are stressed. So mediation can help us to calm the mind, and so increase our ability to attend to each learning experience fully.   Some studies also appear to who that extended practice can even raise our general intelligence.

 Stay Physically healthy

It has come as a surprise to psychologists over the past decades that physical exercise is a sort of miracle cure or “panacea” for a wide range of physical, emotional and now intellectual problems. Exercise is free and there are no side effects. Physical exercise increases your blood flow, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen and glucose your brain is receiving. Exercise also generally involves physical coordination, and so your brain also gets a workout as it coordinates all of that complicated physical activity.

 Exercise helps with the growth of new brain cells (neurons) and the connections between brain cells (neurogenesis) by promoting the production of three essential “growth factors”, called brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1), and endothelial growth factor (VEGF). These factors also minimize inflammation, grow new blood vessels, and slow down cell self-destruction. A good workout can also awaken dormant stem cells in the hippocampus, a part of the mid brain that controls our memory system.Some research seems to suggest that their may be genuine intellectual benefits to exercise in terms of IQ gains.

 Stay mental activity from a young age.

 

The more conversations you have with your child, the more intelligent they will be.  Simple games involving naming objects and solving little puzzles together, making learning a social as well as an educational matter, improves your child’s IQ. Talking to your child increases their vocabulary and that is really important for their general intelligence levels. Talk to your child interactively as much as possible.  Make sure to ask open-ended questions, and show interest in the answer. Ask more questions and encourage the child to elaborate. Telling stories is very good for a child’s intellectual development, as very well documented in the text What reading does for the mind by Cunningham & Stanovich (1998).

 You can raise your child’s IQ by 6 points by simply doing this over a few years when they are young. However, the evidence suggests it may be too late by age four, so start early.

 Kids whose parents read to them most days have higher IQs.  The key, however, to an increased IQ is not just to read – but to read interactively to a child.  That means that you should use an interesting and varying tone of voice, showing lots of relevant emotion as you read.  Look for signs of interest or reactions in the child and ask them questions as you go, making sure the child understands what is being read.  For example, you could stop and ask; “what do you think happens next’? You can also check to see if they can tell you the meaning of a word, or you can provide one for them. This makes reading a fun social activity and this is where the real IQ boost comes from.  This is probably the simplest and most important thing you can do for your child and it is why TV and audio stories played from CDs or computers just will not do the trick! It turns out that kids need their parents!

 But don’t worry if you were never read to as a child. Exercising the brain and keeping mentally active is always a good idea. Fun activities like crosswords, Sudoku or whatever teases your gray matter, has long been suspected by neuroscientists to help improve your cognitive ability.  Even struggling to understand a map, or a badly written flat-pack furniture assembly guide will exercise your spatial and reasoning abilities. One of the simplest things you can do to make your brain sweat is to try to understand points of views that you do not agree with. Open your mind and listen to arguments that make no sense to you – and try to find some sense in them.

 Extend your education

 Many countries have early intervention programs (such as HEAD START, in the USA) to provide intensive early education to children at risk.  They really work for school work – but have not really been shown to improve a child’s general intellectual ability. The main benefit of these programs seems to be that they provide a rich stimulating environment for the child and intensify their educational experience. We can all do the same thing for ourselves and our kids by actively embracing problem-solving and learning every day. Take courses.   Learn that second language. Read that heavy book your were avoiding. Even older children appear to show IQ gains if their environment becomes more stimulating and challenging.

 The idea that our intelligence (or IQ score) is fixed for life is a controversial one, but evidence in support of this is weakening in light of several recent studies. One such study was recently published by Norwegian scientists Christian N. Brinch and Taryn Ann Galloway. They got around the problem of trying to separate the effect of education on IQ from the possibility that more intelligent people simply choose to have more education. Their study involved examining the effects of an increase in the duration of compulsory schooling in Norway in the 1960s. This change extended the minimum time in education for all Norwegians from 7 to 9 years. The authors cleverly hypothesized that the IQs of people who experienced this extra mandatory education should have increased by the time they reached adulthood.

 The researchers had access to excellent records of cognitive ability taken by the military for all eligible males at age 19 and they used these to calculate the IQ of each individual in the study. This allowed them to show that IQ had risen by 0.6 of a point on average for all Norwegian males over the period of study, but had risen by 3.7 points for every extra year of education received. These findings provide very strong support for the ideas that education can increase IQ, but also that even those who are required to receive extra education will benefit from it.

 

 Brain Training

Psychologists have known for quite some time that fundamental cognitive skills (for example the speed at which you process information) are fairly stable throughout our life and while we can often do more with what we have got, it’s not so easy to improve your basic cognitive skill levels, at least until recently. Now the latest player on the self-improvement scene is brain training, with all its neuroscientific gravitas and promises of genuine improvements to our fundamental cognitive skills, such as working memory and decision-making speed.

Online Brain training usually is delivered in the form of entertaining games designed to stimulate important areas of the brain associated with basic cognitive activity. Practice at these tasks lead to real changes in the cell density of those areas (neurogenesis). The idea is that we can literally boost our brains with the correct types of mental exercises. Because psychologists now know quite a bit (although not enough) about what brain areas are involved in what types of skills, they can devise exercises to target those precise areas so that, at least in theory, we can all become more agile thinkers, have more creative insights and reason more logically.

 No doubt the field has become cluttered with all manner of charlatan riding the exciting new wave of interest in what is called “Cognitive training” by psychologists. The media have made the lack of evidence for the merits of brain training a recurring theme in their pop science supplements. And it is true that many brain training companies make over-stretched claims that have even the most optimistic psychologists raising their eye-brows and cringing in discomfort. But that should not take from the basic fact that we are as certain as we ever are in psychological science that a stimulated brain develops more fully and quickly than an under stimulated one. We are also as sure as we can reasonably be that brain cell connections really do grow in response to stimulation and that stimulated brain areas are measurably better developed as a result. We are less sure that we can actually become more intelligent, insightful, and creative in our thinking as a result of brain training although all the evidence and theory points in the right direction. Some very high profile research published by Professor Susan Jaegii and colleagues has led to a high degree of confidence among psychologists that a task known as the dual N-back task can indeed raise at least one important dimension of intelligence, known as fluid intelligence. Still other work reported by Cassidy, Roche and Hayes (2011) in The Psychological Record reports IQ gains of 13 points or so for children exposed to a form of intellectual skills training.

 It is true that particular brain training products have not stood up to the rigors of scientific investigation but that in no way undermines the principle that psychologists are on to something big with brain training.

 Decades of evidence from different laboratories, involving research with animals and humans all suggest that brains can be trained and developed by mental exercise. What is at issue is whether or not particular products can do this on their own and make changes where it matters; to our general intelligence, memory and mental processing speed. And because the benefits of brain training appear to surpass those of any other method for enhancing intellectual ability, it gets the number one position on this list of top ten ways to improve your IQ.