Put your mind to work in the right
way and it could repay you with an
UNTIL recently, a person's IQ - a measure of all kinds of mental problem-solving abilities, including spatial skills, memory and verbal reasoning - was thought to be a fixed commodity largely determined by genetics. But recent research suggests that a very basic brain function called working memory might underlie our general intelligence, opening up the intriguing possibility that if you improve your working memory, you could boost your IQ too.
Working memory is the brain's short-term information storage system. It's a workbench for solving mental problems. For example if you calculate 73 - 6 + 7, your working memory will store the intermediate steps necessary to work out the answer. And the amount of information that the working memory can hold is strongly related to general intelligence.
“Working-memory training is the key to unlocking brain power”
Mind like a sieve? Don't worry. The
difference between mere mortals and
memory champions is all about method
rather than mental capacity
AN AUDITORIUM is filled with 600 people. As they file out, they each tell you their name. An hour later, you are asked to recall them all. Can you do it? Most of us would balk at the idea. But in truth we're all up to the task. It just needs a little technique and dedication.
First, learn a trick from the "mnemonists" who routinely memorise strings of thousands of digits, entire epic poems, or hundreds of unrelated words. When Eleanor Maguire from University College London and her colleagues studied eight front runners in the annual World Memory Championships they did not find any evidence that these people have particularly high IQs or differently configured brains. But, while memorising, these people did show activity in three brain regions that become active during movements and navigation tasks but are not normally active during simple memory tests.
This is connected to the fact that they used a strategy in which they place items to be remembered along a visualised route. To remember the sequence of an entire pack of playing cards for example, the champions assign each card an identity, perhaps an object or person, and as they flick through the cards they can make up a story based on a sequence of interactions between these characters and objects at sites along a well-trodden route.
YOU WILL LEARN THE DETAILS OF HOW TO APPLY THESE TECHNIQUES TO YOUR SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS.
“Strategy is important in everyday life too”, says Barry Gordon from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Simple things like always putting your car keys in the same place, writing things down to get them off your mind, or just deciding to pay attention, can make a big difference to how much information you retain. And if names are your downfall, try making some mental associations. Just remember to keep the derogatory ones to yourself.