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Boost Memory to Increase Intelligence

An intense game of Concentration or other demanding memory
task might kick your intelligence up a notch or two, and the more you engage
your brain this way, the smarter you might become.

Researchers reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences
say that brain exercises designed to improve working memory also
increase scores in fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the ability to
reason and solve new problems. It does not rely on memory and is often thought
of as having a strong hereditary component. Such intelligence is considered one
of the most important factors in learning and is linked to academic and
professional success, according to researchers.

The findings challenge current beliefs that the only way to increase fluid
intelligence scores is by directly practicing on the tests used to calculate
the score. Until now, there has been no evidence to suggest that other types of
brain training would increase such scores in adults.

"The finding that cognitive training can improve fluid intelligence is a
landmark result because this form of intelligence has been claimed to be
largely [nonsusceptible to change]," Susanne Jaeggi, of the department of
psychology at the University of Michigan, and colleagues write in the journal
article. "Our data provide evidence that, with appropriate training, there
is potential to improve fluid intelligence."

Scientists have theorized that working memory and fluid intelligence share a
common thread: Both seem to rely on similar neural networks. With this concept
in mind, Jaeggi investigated whether they could improve one's fluid
intelligence by means of a working memory task.

For the study, healthy adult volunteers (average age: 26) completed a
standard test for fluid intelligence and then performed a series of training
exercises designed to improve their working memory. The researchers divided the
volunteers into four groups; each group repeated the exercises over a different
number of days.

Jaeggi's team retested the volunteers' fluid intelligence after the training
and compared the scores to those who did not receive training. They noted a
significant improvement in fluid intelligence scores among those who
participated in the demanding memory tasks. There were greater improvements
seen in those who spent the most time training.

"We demonstrate that the extent of gain in intelligence critically
depends on the amount of training: the more training, the more improvement in
[fluid intelligence]," the researchers write in the journal article.

The team says their findings suggest that such memory training appears to
strengthen the brain's many "executive processes" responsible for
problem solving. The score improvements were not due to pre-existing individual
differences in fluid intelligence.

The idea that it's possible to improve fluid intelligence without directly
practicing on tests themselves opens a wide range of applications in education,
according to the researchers.

By Kelli Stacy
Reviewed by Louise Chang
©2005-2008 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved

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