Have you ever wondered which brain training improves your intelligence the most?
I remember researching all those brain training apps thinking that basically any of the would do the trick, but actually I was looking to improve my brain power in all the wrong places.
Brain training is actually big business.
You don’t need to look far at all to find apps, games and books that promise to be able to improve your IQ and make you smarter through brain training.
Very often, these involve completing strange puzzles, playing unusual games or performing math.
Most Brain Training Apps Only Improve the Skill You’re Working On at the Time
But as it turns out, this type of brain training using the apps, while useful, only trains that one skill you’re working on at the time.
It is not useful for boosting your real life intelligence overall.
Because here’s the thing: when you use brain training such as Nintendo Brain Age, or perhaps Lumosity, it turns out that you aren’t really boosting your your overall intelligence in any tangible or practical, useful way.
What you’re simply doing is improving your brain’s ability to do that one thing.
So, if you play a game where you have to pick out a number from a line of numbers, then you are simply improving your ability to… pick a number out of a line of numbers.
And most of us would agree that this isn’t all that helpful or useful for every day life.
Brain plasticity is at work here, it’s just that it isn’t really helping with the thing we want it to help with!
So how do you go about training your brain more generally?
Accidental Brain Training
The rules of brain plasticity make it very easy for us to work out what impact a certain type of training will have on the brain.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of your brain to change and rewire itself. In other words neither your brain function (nor your intelligence) is fixed and you can improve it.
Brain Training and Rewiring Your Brain
in order to understand why a certain this more fully, let’s use the acronym called SAID.
SAID stands for ‘Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands’.
In other words, this is to say that your brain becomes better at doing the things you make it do regularly.
That means that the best form of brain training to become better at focusing on your work, is to simply force yourself to focus on your work more.
Do this often and over time, you will become better at doing it.
Want to become better at math? Then practice math more.
There is a old saying, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
But what about training a lot of skills at once that are varied and can actually improve your overall intelligence?
This Brain Training Improves Your Overall Intelligence
There are some tasks though that will help you to improve your brain in a much more ‘non-specific’ way.
These involve activities that have changing circumstances but require the same basic ‘skills’.
I remember thinking, when I was a young parent, that kids playing video games was kind of a waste of time.
But once I started studying neuroscience and how the brain actually works, and that includes the fact that intelligence is not fixed and can be improved, I was really surprised.
It turns out brain training that improves your intelligence is a well-kept secret that lies in computer games!
(Before you go getting all excited, you want to make sure that the type of computer game is related more to your real world activities if you want it to really make a difference).
So those violent video games aren’t really the ones that you want to mimic your real life.
But the ones with lots of quick decision making and positive outcomes are.
For example, the choices you make during Minecraft affect both the story and the plot so the outcomes are varied and as far as you’re brain is concerned provides an enormous array of skills.
Why Computer Games Work as Brain Training Improves Intelligence
Computer games are actually among the very best brain training tools out there.
In a moment, we’ll see that they can be useful for enhancing brain plasticity, simply because every new game requires you to learn new inputs, new rules and new environments.
But beyond this even, computer games are useful for just encouraging development in several key brain areas because of the skills that they require.
Action games for instance have been shown to increase our ability to tell different shades of grey and actually to improve visual acuity.
The reason for this is that shooters require us to be constantly looking at the screen for signs of movement.
Likewise, these games have been shown to help enhance decision making and to increase the speed at which decisions are made, without negatively impacting on the quality of those decisions.
On a more positive note, you can also accomplish this with simulation video games.
All these games require you to constantly making decisions in a huge variety of situations.
The difference between something like a computer game or something like a ‘brain training exercise’, is that a computer game is a much more varied experience and one that is far more closely relatable to our real-world experiences.
Computer games provide realistic context and settings for our actions and they challenge us in a dynamically shifting manner.
Similarly, when you take on new challenges at work, read a complex text or immerse yourself in a new culture to learn a new language, you’ll be more effective at increasing your overall intelligence and brain power.
Imagine going to a new part of your city where the language you want to learn is mostly spoken there and you put yourself in a situation where you decide not to rely on google or even people to speak your native language.
You’ll be immersing yourself in new language and forcing your brain to make quick decisions for you in a significant number of areas that will affect your real life.
Pat Wyman is the founder of HowtoLearn.com, HowtoLearn.Teachable.com, best selling author and an internationally noted brain and learning coach.
Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, including Total Recall Learning™.
She is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!