It’s commonly held that intelligence is something we are born with, but what if intelligence is more flexible than we thought? The idea of increasing one's intelligence has persisted through the ages; some experts believe it is possible to increase your IQ by a considerable amount, either through “brain training” or through the use of “smart drugs.” Although the science is incomplete, read on to see if you want to give either of these options a try.

Smart Drugs

According to the Association for Psychological Science, intelligence is generally divided into two categories: fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the ability to reason in an abstract way and solve problems, whereas crystallized intelligence is more related to the acquisition of intellectual skills, or the ability to read and comprehend. Although our crystallized intelligence generally increases with age as we learn new skills, fluid intelligence is meant to be stagnant.

math Intelligence may be more flexible than we previously believed. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Some researchers have sought to increase our fluid intelligence through the use of medications known as smart drugs. For example, the drug modafinil, while known for helping with sleep disorders, also affects the cognitive abilities of well-rested people. One study, published in the online journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, found that modafinil was useful for helping users complete more complex forms of thinking and assisting with faculties like executive function or consolidating memory. What’s more, the drug had few negative side effects, with some users reporting insomnia, headaches and nausea. Still, while modafinil and other nootropics may improve certain functions for a short period of time, they aren’t able to increase our actual overall intelligence.

Brain Training

Working memory is correlated with complex learning, problem solving, and general attention control, The Scientist reported. So, naturally, increasing your memory capacity would help to increase your ability to problem solve and learn complex skills, or at least that's what some experts believe. For example, a 2008 study published in PNAS found that training for just 10 hours on a working memory task known as the adaptive dual n-back task resulted in improved fluid intelligence. What’s more, not only did the participants improve in working memory, but participants were also able to transfer this gain and improve their scores on a completely unrelated cognitive task.  

There are many critics to this theory, particularly because the results have yet to be repeated, The Scientist reported. Still, it’s not unheard of for individuals to improve drastically on an IQ test after intensive training. For example, Andrea Kuszewski, an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, explained that during her time as a behavior therapist for autistic children she was able to observe first-hand drastic increases in IQ test scores thanks to one-on-one teaching in areas such as communication, reading, math, social functioning, play skills and leisure activities, Scientific American reported.

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