By Mary Jaksch
Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. ~Steve Job, SEO
New research shows that intelligence can be boosted. Brain scientists divide intelligence into two different aspects, fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.
Fluid intelligence is the ability to step outside of our beliefs and use information which does not fit into our previously accepted view of reality. It is the ability to find meaning in confusion and to solve new problems, independent of previous knowledge.
Fluid intelligence helps us to solve problems. It was previously believed that this ability cannot be enhanced. However, new research shows that carefully designed brain training tools can improve this ability. The health blog Dose the Nation says:
A joint team of US and Swiss researchers designed series of computer games to train working memory. It is believed that working memory is very close to fluid intelligence and it is based on the same brain circuit.
Tests results showed that those who trained more showed significantly more improvement compared to those who trained less. The research suggests that training branches up cells and form more connections between them.
Fluid intelligence is connected to the short-term memory. Programs that aim at boosting fluid intelligence, also try to improve the working memory.
Forget about brain age: current research shows that we can improve intelligence at any age.
How to Boost Fluid Intelligence
1. Become an early adoptor
Do you sometimes feel left behind by new developments? Take the Internet as an example. New trends appear just about weekly. Just think of the development of social media.
There are two groups of users, early adaptors and late adaptors. Early adaptors learn about new trends, study them and try out new software or gadgets. Late adaptors wait until the mainstream culture has caught up with a trend.
A way for your fluid intelligence to improve is to become an early adaptor.
2. Think Outside the Box
Whenever you want to solve a problem and can’t find an answer, search for a solution outside the box. If you do that, you become an agent of change. DeBono’s technique of Six Hats is particularly useful.
3. Learn new skills
When did you last learn a completely new skill? It’s easy to become complacent with skills we have mastered in the past. However, it’s essential for brain growth to learn learn new skills. Because learning allows the brain to create neurons and new pathways.
3. Practice brain gym exercises
Fifty years ago, gyms that focused on strength training were unknown. Nowadays we know that it’s important to exercise our muscles and boost fitness at any age. However, it’s less accepted that we need to train our brain regularly as well.
Exercises focused on improving fluid intelligence are called Dual N-Back exercises.
- Get a free training program . You can download a version for Windows version, or for Mac. Don’t forget to download the tutorial!
- You can check out how an exercise to boost visual memory works.
- Another highly rated program is MindFit. It has been endorsed by leading neurologists, but I haven’t tried it yet myself.
- Find more good ideas on how to exercise your brain in this excellent book: The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness
- Forget Nintendo: Brain Age – it’s laughable! The exercises include simple math, for example 1 ? 2=3. Yes, you guessed it, 1+ 2=3! They also include playing along to a song on a touchscreen keyboard, or writing down a word that you hear spoken (you get six tries!)
4. Learn to meditate
When I was researching this post, I came across a new brain gym in San Francisco called Vibrant Brains. This is an actual gym people can go to, in order to improve their brain power. Jan Zivic, the founder of Vibrant Braines writes:
After my auto accident and emergency brain surgery, these kinds of exercises changed my life. I’m still using these programs and they’re still helping.
I imagined a lively place with computer work stations on which students complete special exercises. But when I looked at their program, here is what I found:
Guided instruction in mindfulness meditation practices: sitting and walking meditation, body scan and gentle yoga to wake up to the present moment. Awareness exercises to promote physical & mental health.
So after all the hightech exercises – we’re back to meditation!
One of the reasons meditation helps with brain fitness, is that it trains attention. That is, the ability to focus on one thing for a prolonged period of time. Obviously, this is useful when training the working memory. If someone says their name and your mind is elsewhere, there is no way you will remember it!
We can support brain health by good nutrition:
- Increase your water intake
- Restrict your calories
- Eat natural antioxidants such as blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, spinach, Brussel sprouts, red peppers, avocados, etc.
- Include Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, found in deep-sea fish and fish oil.
As you can see, there is much we can do for brain fitness. The most important factor is the attitude we have. If we keep a positive outlook and keep on being willing to learn, our brain will develop, no matter what age we are.