How to Increase IQ
Brain Exercises

Benefits of Meditation
Mental Math

Riddles and Puzzles
Lateral Thinking

Brain Function Q and A

The following questions are from subscribers to The Mind Power Report. I do my best to answer them and/or provide some insight and opinion. Included are questions about lucid dreaming, image streaming and television shows that are good for the brain.

Q: Are brainwave entrainment CDs more effective for relaxation or meditation that just listening to classical music?

A: The original work on brainwave entrainment started from the observation that certain classical music compositions helped people relax by leading them into an alpha state. But the music wasn't designed for that purpose (which is why only some compositions seem to have the effect), so it seems that the newest products would have to be better than music. I'm not sure if a side-by-side comparison has been made in any scientific research, but it's reasonable to assume that the effect is more pronounced when it is intended than when it coincidentally triggered by parts of some music.

Q: Is lucid dreaming really possible?

A: I have had the experience of lucid dreaming. I even recall arguing with others in the dream that it was a dream, which I proceeded to prove by waking up. :)

Q: I have some comprehension issues when reading. Then I get easily confused when I try to tell people what I have learned. Can you suggest something to help with this?

A: It's difficult to say from your short email what will help because we are all different in how we learn, remember and use or brain in general. But if you want to keep trying different things, you can look the site map on the website for pages on learning, study techniques, speed reading and such: Site Map

Explain things to a friend who won't judge you too harshly if you get things confused a bit. Or try explaining things in your own words in your mind as you read them. The practice of imagining myself teaching what I'm learning has helped me clarify things. Maybe it is also just the fear of speaking (I get that at times) which makes it tough to think clearly at the moment you try to explain things. Practice may help with this too.

Q: Have you tried image streaming as a brainpower practice?

A: I have played around with image streaming, but never practiced it consistently. From what I have read, it does seem to work for many.

Q: The brain is made up of different parts but I can't remember the name of the memory part, the seeing part and the talking part. What are the names?

A: Many parts of the brain are involved in memory, but short-term memories are transferred to long-term memory through the hippocampus. This is why the hippocampus is sometimes considered the memory center.

Seeing too, is handled in many parts of the brain, the primary one being the middle temporal complex.

Verbal abilities also come from many parts of the brain. What is called "Broca's area," in the lower lateral frontal lobe may be the most crucial part.

Q: I've always been told that breathing through the nose provides more oxygen, but I'm curious as to how this works. When we exercise we instinctively breathe fast out of our mouth like other animals, like we can't get enough oxygen through our nose. How or why is it any different when we are not physically active?

A: For whatever reasons most of us tend to breathe too shallowly when not exercising. Breathing through the nose involves the diaphragm more than mouth breathing typically does. You can test this right now and you'll notice that your abdomen extends more when breathing through your nose. The diaphragm pulls more air in and more deeply.

Interestingly, some runners train themselves to breathe through their noses while running. I'm not sure if that will be an effective new technique or if (for some of us) the small openings of the nose just aren't up to the task, but if I find out more on this I'll include it in the newsletter.

Q: Will playing chess increase your IQ?

A: It can't hurt to try. Mental activities like chess will definitely keep your brain exercised, but there haven't been many studies to see if you get an actual increase in IQ scores from them. I play chess every week because I enjoy it.

Q: Can we really increase our IQ, and is it related to memory?

A: There have been many cases of people increasing their IQ score. The argument some scientists have is about whether they just learn to take the test better or actually increase intelligence. IQ seems to be more related to what is called "working memory" (the things you can hold in your mind at the moment) than other forms of memory, so some people work on improving that to increase IQ.

More important in my mind is the fact that we can learn to use our minds better. For example, we can get in the habit of asking more questions, or challenging assumptions. Either of these will lead to more creative thinking. Whether we call this an increase in IQ is not very important.

Q: I was wondering what the best sort of TV shows are for improving IQ.

A: I have never seen any studies done on using television to improve IQ, but I think we can assume that if it is possible the ones that make you think would have the most effect. This would be somewhat individual I imagine. In other words, if you want to become a better problem solver the program MacGyver (only in reruns now), might help. Crime shows are potentially useful because they get you to analyze the facts and try to solve the case. The program Law and Order does that but also deals with current issues that are controversial and so might get your mind more active in thinking about politics and social matters.

Certainly documentaries on many subjects, ranging from nature to psychology, can add to your store of knowledge and might help you better analyze things in the future as a result.

My guess is that television does more harm than good for most people, but that is only because it is used as a passive way to pass time, a kind of pleasant hypnosis or drug. But that doesn't mean we can't choose to be more selective in what we watch and how we approach our viewing of programs. If I wanted to use television to at least add to knowledge and creative thought, I would skip the shows that are purely drama and opt for those that teach you something new or leave you thinking. Shows change all the time, so I can't be much more specific than that.

Q: Can a person get brain damage from altitude from skydiving? (This was in response to a news item I had on brain damage from altitude.)

A: I don't skydive, but I understand that it is usually done from between 10,000 and 14,000 feet - probably not high enough to cause serious problems, especially given the short time at that altitude. I haven't read anything about altitude sickness or brain damage from skydiving (unless the parachute doesn't open), but if I do I'll report on it in the newsletter.

Q: Some people do not study for exams but constantly play video games every day and still get straight As? Why are they so clever that they guess every question right? Does playing games every day make them smart? I thought it decreases intelligence.

A: Video games probably don't influence overall intelligence dramatically one way or the other, but may have an effect on certain elements of intelligence (no strong evidence yet though).In moderation they may be good brain exercise, and when played too much they probably just take time from more productive activities - like studying for that exam. But yes, some people are naturally more intelligent than the rest of us in some ways. Some people also have a knack for taking tests. And some people are probably studying more than you know, but just not saying so.

Here's a page on tips for exams:

Test Taking Tips

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