Does brain training make you smarter?

The Real Brain Exhibit at Bristol Science Centre
Nicole Briggs looks at a real human brain being displayed as part of new exhibition at the Bristol attraction on March 8, 2011 in Bristol, England.
Getty Images/Matt Cardy

Can we train our brains to become more intelligent? In recent years a number of commercial ventures have appeared promising to not just improve test scores, but improve underlying intelligence. Places like Learning Rx and Luminosity claim that our brains can be challenged at any age to actually become smarter, not just more knowledgeable.

Dan Hurley, a science journalist, recently wrote about brain training in The New York Times:

Psychologists have long regarded intelligence as coming in two flavors: crystallized intelligence, the treasure trove of stored-up information and how-to knowledge (the sort of thing tested on "Jeopardy!" or put to use when you ride a bicycle); and fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence grows as you age; fluid intelligence has long been known to peak in early adulthood, around college age, and then to decline gradually. And unlike physical conditioning, which can transform 98-pound weaklings into hunks, fluid intelligence has always been considered impervious to training.

That, after all, is the premise of I.Q. tests, or at least the portion that measures fluid intelligence: we can test you now and predict all sorts of things in the future, because fluid intelligence supposedly sets in early and is fairly immutable.

Hurley will join The Daily Circuit Wednesday.

While some scientists are supporting the brain training claims, many are skeptical - not just of these commercial operations motives and results, but of the idea that we can change something that people have long assumed is a fixed trait.

Zach Hambrick, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, will also join the discussion.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN: Try these brain exercises


Can you make yourself smarter? (New York Times)

How brain training can boost intelligence (Time)

Buff your brain (Newsweek)

I.Q. points for sale, cheap (New York Times)

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