A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports to have found a method for improving the general problem-solving ability scientists call fluid intelligence, otherwise known as "smarts." Previously, fluid intelligence was thought to be genetically hard-wired, but the finding suggests that with about 25 minutes of rigorous mental training a day, healthy adults could improve their mental capacities.
Fluid intelligence measures how people adapt to new situations and solve problems they've never seen before. Fluid intelligence differs from crystallized intelligence, which takes into account skills and knowledge that have been acquired -- like vocabulary, grammar and math. It's not hard, for example, for students to improve their IQ scores by taking lots of IQ tests. however, learning how to take IQ tests doesn't improve the underlying smarts. The students just get better at taking tests. In practical terms, people can get better at taking tests, but in daily life, donít have a blazingly quick new brain.
In a limited trial, Martin Buschkuehl, a psychology researcher based at the University of Bern, Switzerland and colleagues from the University of Michigan were able to make 34 test subjects significantly better at answering IQ test questions after training them on a completely separate memory task.
But in this case, subjects trained on a complex version of the so-called "n-back task" -- a difficult visual/auditory memory test -- improved their scores on a set of IQ questions drawn from a German intelligence measure called the Bochumer Matrizen-Test. (The Bochumer Matrizen-Test is a harder version of the well-known Ravens Progressive Matrices).
Initially, the test subjects scored an average of 10 questions correctly on the IQ test. But after the group trained on the n-back task for 25 minutes a day for 19 days, they averaged 14.7 correct answers, an increase of more than 40 percent. (A control group that was not trained showed only a very slight performance increase.)
Buschkuehl's team postulates that the n-back task improves working memory -- how many pieces of information subjects can keep in their head -- as well as the ability to control the brain's attention. Fluid intelligence tests require those types of thinking, and the training improved performance in these underlying skills.
The researchers point out that "there is a long history of research into cognitive training showing that, although performance on trained tasks can increase dramatically, transfer of this learning to other tasks remains poor. Here, we present evidence for transfer from training on a demanding working memory task to other measures. This transfer results even though the trained task is entirely different from the intelligence test itself."
The possibilities are interesting...Posted by rsk at April 30, 2008 08:52 AM