Increase Brainpower by Improving the Brain
Many of the techniques used to increase one's mental abilities
are temporary. These include problem solving methods, exercises
in imagination, and stimulants like caffeine or deep breathing.
Some people argue that because these only temporarily improve
performance, they don't actually increase IQ. On the other hand,
you can choose to use them whenever you want to, including during
IQ tests, so the "temporary" argument may not be all
Of course, to use any technique continually is a difficult
goal. Maybe you want to make more permanent improvements? But
can you increase brainpower permanently, or at least as permanently
as things can be for mortals?
Recent research answers this clearly. Yes, you can actually
change the physical structure of your brain, and so improve its
function. There are two basic ways you can do this. The first
way is to build and strengthen your brain with mental exercises.
The second is to strengthen it with certain physical exercises
Mental Exercises That Improve the Brain
Mental exercises create temporary changes in your thinking.
However, in many studies, exercising the brain has also been
shown to generate new neuronal growth. It has even been demonstrated
that it can halt the decline of mental function that often comes
Which mental exercises should you try? Ones you enjoy are
ideal. You'll get more involved and be more likely to keep doing
them. In the research, there have been many activities used to
test neuronal growth that results from exercising the brain.
No specific ones have been singled out as more effective yet,
but we can apply our common sense here.
Watching TV, for example, is not a good mental exercise. It
is too passive. Crossword puzzles make for good mental exercise,
as does playing word games, arguing philosophy, or doing mental
math while driving. Other possibilities include habitually redesigning
things in your imagination, learning and using memory techniques,
and inventing the lyrics as you sing a song.
Physical Exercises That Increase Brainpower
Physical exercise improves brain function indirectly, which
is is easy to understand. A better cardiovascular system means
better blood flow. It is blood that carries much-needed oxygen
to the brain. Unfortunately, this better oxygen supply to the
brain will persist only as long as you stay in shape, so are
there physical exercises or activities that will make more permanent
changes in the brain?
Again the research says yes. Activities involving timing and
coordination cause new dendrite growth in the brain, resulting
in more possible connections. More connections means your learning
and thinking can be more flexible and efficient. Doing physical
exercise and activities, then, can increase brainpower - if you
do the right type.
Athletic activities that can increase brainpower include tennis,
basketball, soccer, and tossing around a frisbee. Other activities
that require a lot of coordination and timing can accomplish
the same thing. Try playing musical instruments, especially those
that require precise timing, like piano playing. You can also
try activities involving hand-eye coordination, like painting,
drawing, or woodworking.
Meditating, part physical and part mental activity, also changes
the structure of the brain. Research shows that it increases
the thickness of the cortex in areas involved in sensory processing
and attention - the prefrontal cortex and the right anterior
insula. Other studies show a similar thickening in the relevant
areas of the cortex of highly skilled musicians and linguists.
The bottom line is that areas of the brain which you exercise
grow bigger. This growth is from new neurons, as well as bigger
blood vessels and supporting structures like glia and astrocytes,
and from increased branching and connections. You can
increase your brain power by physically improving your brain.