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Can You Make Yourself Smarter? Yes. Real question is, How?

A new arti­cle in The New York Times, Can You Make Your­self Smarter, pro­vides a great overview of work­ing mem­ory and cog­ni­tive training:

- “We see atten­tion and work­ing mem­ory as the car­dio­vas­cu­lar func­tion of the brain,” Jaeggi says.“If you train your atten­tion and work­ing mem­ory, you increase your basic cog­ni­tive skills that help you for many dif­fer­ent com­plex tasks.”

- “Those two things, work­ing mem­ory and cog­ni­tive con­trol, I think, are at the heart of intel­lec­tual func­tion­ing,” Jonides told me when I met with him, Jaeggi and Buschkuehl in their base­ment office. “They are part of what dif­fer­en­ti­ates us from other species. They allow us to selec­tively process infor­ma­tion from the envi­ron­ment, and to use that infor­ma­tion to do all kinds of problem-solving and reasoning.”

- “Harold Hawkins, a cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gist at the Office of Naval Research who over­sees most of the U.S. military’s stud­ies in the area, expressed a com­mon view. For him, the ques­tion now is not whether cog­ni­tive train­ing works but how strongly and how best to achieve it. ”

- “If future stud­ies con­firm the ben­e­fits of working-memory train­ing on fluid intel­li­gence, the impli­ca­tions could be enor­mous. Might chil­dren with A.D.H.D. receive working-memory train­ing rather than stim­u­lant drugs like Ritalin? Might stu­dents in high school and col­lege do N-back train­ing rather than cram­ming for their finals? Could a jour­nal­ist like me write bet­ter articles?”

Com­ment: The arti­cle fails to dis­cuss other brain train­ing method­olo­gies such as med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive therapy/ refram­ing and biofeed­back (the impli­ca­tion being that there is a grow­ing num­ber of tools to “make our­selves smarter” and we there­fore need to learn how to nav­i­gate and use them), and gives too much credit to the flawed “BBC brain train­ing” study, but it over­all pro­vides an excel­lent read.

Arti­cleCan You Make Your­self Smarter

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