- It’s a common misconception that your intelligence levels are fixed, and you’re as smart as you’ll ever be. That’s a myth.
- You might assume that your memory, cognition, and focus will decline as you age. Also, not the case.
- There are brain-training exercises that you can do to stay sharp and even improve your brain power.
- Key supplements protect your brain from oxidative stress, and even build new brain cells.
It’s pretty much accepted that brain health and all that goes with it — memory, intelligence, and complex decision-making — declines with age. But new research suggests this doesn’t actually have to be the case. Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas found that a cognitive training program used for one hour a week, alongside two hours of homework, reversed cognitive decline in older adults.
The program, called Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (or SMART for short), teaches you how to block irrelevant information so you can focus on the bigger picture without getting caught up in minor details. It also teaches you to analyze issues from different viewpoints, which helps with mental flexibility. Over the course of 12 weeks, these techniques helped the study’s participants (all over age 55) develop better focus and stronger reasoning skills. (Download the app here.)
So why is this news huge? “Innovative cognition — the kind of thinking that reinforces and preserves complex decision-making, intellect and psychological well-being — does not need to decline with age. This study reveals that cognitive training may help enhance cognitive capacities and build resilience against decline in healthy older adults,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, Center for BrainHealth founder, chief director, and lead author of the study.
This study builds upon what’s already known about the brain — namely, that intelligence is not fixed. Numerous studies reveal that training, supplements, and even time can expand intelligence. That’s due to a big word called neuroplasticity – your ability to reshape your nervous system and brain. If you’ve caught yourself (or your parents) having “senior moments,” or just want to boost your IQ, here’s what you can do upgrade your brain function.
Use brain games to up your IQ
Besides SMART, there are other ways to stimulate your brain toward peak cognition performance. Dual N Back is a downloadable software program that requires 20 minutes of your time. They’re computer lessons that improve memory, problem-solving, imagination, and even REM sleep. If you’d like to read more, Dual N Back Training was the focus of our article titled “How To Add 2.75 IQ Points Per Hour of Training.” Or perhaps you are interested in trying it right now. Check out Brain Workshop, where you can download it for free. Be prepared to give yourself a daily dose of Dual N Back for about a month. It may not be easy at first — it might be downright dreadful as those neuronal circuits rewire — but soon enough, your brainy superpowers will kick in and you’ll be reciting your favorite Shakespeare sonnet in no time.
Practice memory techniques
People use a lot of different techniques to remember something. If you ask someone for a phone number, you might repeat it in your mind until you dial it, then you immediately forget the number. If you’re studying for a test, you might make up rhymes or mnemonic devices to memorize items for quick recall.
Bulletproof Radio podcast guest and accelerated learning expert Jonathan Levi (iTunes) explains a technique he uses called “memory palaces.” It essentially involves visualizing things or people in a physical space that you’re familiar with, the same way we would visualize placing furniture in rooms.
“[Spatial memory] is a huge survival advantage that our brains do naturally, which is why you’ll never forget every home you’ve ever lived in. You know the layout,” explains Levi. “You have all these empty memory palaces, and all you need to do is start putting your memories in there.”
Sharpen your smarts with brain-boosting supplements
If sharpening your cognitive powers nutritionally is your MO, these supplements have you covered. The following are known to have supreme brain benefits:
- Krill Oil (EPA & DHA): These two omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for proper brain function and development. They improve memory and thought processes. If you already have an optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats from your diet, you only need to take about 350mg per day.
- Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil: MCT oil helps your brain run more efficiently. It also happens to turn on your body’s fat-burning abilities. Start slowly with MCT oil, to allow your body to get used to this much energy this quickly.
Consider Nootropics, aka “smart drugs”
Nootropics, aka “smart drugs” are substances that improve executive functions, like memory, creativity, and even motivation. There are a host of nootropics to explore—from Aniracetam for memory, creativity, and stress to Huperzine A for memory, nerve growth, and possible protection against Alzheimer’s. Two other notable ones are:
- Acetyle-L-carnitine (ALC): When crossing the blood-brain barrier, ACL acts on both acetylcholine and dopamine function, becoming a powerful antioxidant and cognitive enhancer. It’s true that most studies have been done on rodents, though there is a gamut of anecdotal evidence to suggest effectiveness in humans.
- Caffeine: Caffeine offers a massive boost in brain power. It improves short-term memory, alertness, and cognitive function. Caffeine improves the ability to perform simple math problems and organization and may improve mood. Upgraded coffee beans contain two potent brain anti-inflammatory agents, cafestrol and kawehol, which boost cognitive performance differently than caffeine. They are bite-sized brain winners for sure.
For more on nootropics, read 13 Nootropics to Unlock Your True Brain.