Wednesday, March 14, 2012


 Wouldn't it be great to be smarter? And make super wise decisions about work, finances, remember names, dates, and tech stuff -- all the routines that are involved in high-level functioning in today's world?

Can you increase your IQ? Yes!

A recent Newsweek cover story and nine pages confirmed it, and gave us information on the research that proves that you can.

Remember when everyone was taking Ginko Bilova, and Ginseng? I tried it, but didn't feel any different. So of course, I read every word on the nine pages and learned about exercises for the brain, and "tricks" that help you learn faster.

I got information on neurobiology, plasticity, cognitive science, and the proof -- details on studies and tests that showed how "gray matter" (neurons) increase with use, and decrease when they're not used.

I learned about stimulants, pills, and "aerobic" exercise for the brain. Specific things you can do that will improve your short term and long term memory, enhance your ability to retain information, increase your attention span. The list also emphasized the importance of taking a rest.

I got sleepy reading the names of professors and doctors who did this test and that test and what the various tests maybe prove, but I kept reading. The piece de resistance of the article was 31 WAYS TO GET SMARTER IN 2012, an illustrated list with comments -- oddly facetious comments..

Bothered by them, I Googled and found page after page -- an explosion of Websites, bloggers and radio stations who were sharing the Newsweek article with their readers. Clicking NEXT, then next, and next till my thumb got tired, I saw 89 versions of the 31 WAYS that added their own sort of ha-ha comments.

I am not sure why people added their own remarks -- to make it sound easier? lighten the load? Is it the magazine's new concept? Ever since it became the NewsBeast, I'm finding more gossipy, weak news in Newsweek.

Anyhow, it's a hot topic, though it seemed to me that Newsweek, like a TV ad, was sell-telling us how important their list was for us poor, needy, average folks. It took quite a lot of brain aerobics to cull out the ha-ha cute stuff. Here's my expurgated copy of 31 WAYS:

1) Play Words with Friends
Research has shown that word puzzles help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

2) Eat Turmeric
It's a common spice in Indian and Thai curries. The spice contains curcumin, which may reduce the risk of dementia. It's also used as a an orange-yellow dye.

3) Take Tae Kwon do
Or something physical -- tennis, dancing, games on the Nintendo Wii Fit or X-Box Kinect -- any activity that raises your heart rate and requires a lot of coordination.

4) Get News From Al Jazeera
A 2009 study found that viewers of Al Jazeera English were more open-minded than people who got their news from CNN International and BBC World.

5) Toss Your Smartphone
Constantly checking your phone disrupts focus and saps productivity. Go off line; install “Freedom” software that blocks access to the internet for a specific amount of time.

6) Sleep. A lot.

Take a nap, and go to bed early. Harvard research shows your brain is processing memories even when you’re asleep; you'll recall them better later.

7) Download The TED app
Some of the greatest minds around gather each year at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences to explore new ideas -- see what they’re up to.

8) Go To A Literary Festival
Visit places with major annual book festivals and learn from their guest authors.

9) Build A ‘Memory Palace’
For quick recall, associate what you want to remember with a vivid image, techniques for this are outlined in Joshua Foer’s "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything."

10) Learn A Language
Master a second language; it gives your brain a workout. “Rosetta Stone” language software makes it easier than ever.

11) Eat Dark Chocolate
It has memory-improving flavonoids. Red wine is also a flavonoid source.

12) Join A Knitting Circle

Knitting refines your motor ability which can bolster cognitive skills.

13) Wipe The Smile Off Your Face

Experiments have shown that the simple act of frowning makes you more skeptical and analytic in your thinking.

14) Play Violent Video Games

Various studies have find that video games quicken reactions, improve multitasking, and reduce hostile feelings after a stressful task.

15) Follow These People On Twitter

Economic genius Nouriel Roubini (@Nouriel), online show host Jad Abumrad (@JadAbumrad) and author Colson Whitehead (@colsonwhitehead). Reading their tweets teaches you about smart thinking.

16) Eat Yogurt
Probiotics are good for you; studies suggest they could be good for your brain too. Mice that eat them show increased activity in sections of the brain handling emotions and memory.

17) Install SuperMemo

Flashcard program called “SuperMemo” helps you catalog important new data and then reminds you to remember it before it slips away.

18) See A Shakespeare Play

Reading Shakespeare has been shown to engage the brain more actively than most contemporary texts.

19) Refine Your Thinking

Kahneman, author of "Thinking, Fast and Slow," says "fast and automatic" is OK but slower, more effortful is better.

20) Hydrate

Dehydration forces your brain to work harder and may dampen its planning ability.

21) Check Out iTunes
Apple offers over a half million free lectures, videos films and other resources from top-tier schools.

22) Visit Your Local Art Museum

Most metropolitan areas have major art museums. Viewing art has been shown to reduce stress.

23) Play A Musical Instrument
Learning an instrument boosts your IQ, increases activity in parts of the brain controlling memory and coordination.

24) Write By Hand
Bran scans show that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing.

25) The Pomodoro Technique

This time-management method aims to make you productive -- work in 25-minute blocks, taking a short break after each -- the frequent rest aids mental agility.

26) Zone Out

Studies suggest that “zoning out” allows the brain to work on more important “big picture” thinking.

27) Drink Coffee

Studies have shown that coffee enhances your short-term memory.

28) Delay Gratification

Studies show that children who resist eating a marshmallow placed in front of them, later in life have higher SAT scores than the students who ate it.

29) Become An Expert
Mastering a task or game (like chess) teaches your brain to recognize patterns and perform more efficiently.

30) Write Reviews Online
Writing out your opinion helps you better understand your own thinking.

31) Get Out Of Town
Life in a crowded city street impairs memory and self-control, as your brain processes all the stimuli. Get in touch with nature on a vacation gives your brain a chance to recover


Six items make sense to me. The specifics on memory training, learning something new, playing games, reading, and yes, writing by hand might help you become a smarter YOU. But I think these 31 WAYS make this "hot" topic lukewarm.

In my opinion, it boils down to this -- DO things. If you want to be smarter and there's something, anything that you like to do, love to do, and aren't doing -- DO IT.

If you'd like to see exactly what Newsweek said, here's the link.
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