Get Smart!

A Quest Is Born
Shoes were smart long before phones caught up.
Shoes were smart long before phones caught up.

You are stuck with the smarts you are born with. That’s what most of us were taught about our intellectual capabilities. The only way to change your IQ is to damage it. Sniff a little glue. Suffer blunt force trauma. Experiment with oxygen deprivation.

Beyond that, your cognitive inheritance is fixed. You are born with an IQ number and you will die with that IQ number, and your only hope is persuasive self-delusion. If you are among the lucky ones, you are born with a high number representing a brain that spills complex calculations and creative deductions as numerous as the offspring of promiscuous fruit flies. If you are like everyone else, you satisfy yourself with the hope that you are above average, even if just a little. And, if you are one of those who know your IQ score, the number you tell your friends is definitely higher than 120. (Did you ever meet anyone who knew her IQ and said it was 101? People with 101 IQs are not smart enough to know their number.)

But for the last several years, neurologists have been talking about something called brain plasticity — the idea that your brain has wiggle room in the smarts department. At first, the claims were modest: Rats kept in a cage with lots of toys and friends had more connection points between their neurons than rats kept in a cage with sawdust. Great news for all you cage dwellers. Since that study, the promise has grown beyond consideration of your cage mates. And money-making schemes have grown apace, working to leverage any optimism against the desperate boomer fear of losing one’s marbles.

I decided to see if any of this adds up. Starting this month, I will be locked in a cage with toys and friends. No, OK, not really. Rather, I will begin my Get Smart Quest. I’m undergoing testing to find out just how smart (or not) I am. (I never did know my IQ number. Not a good sign.) When the tests are done, I’ll start trying to improve my brain power.

Of course, I can’t really be totally scientific about this, and n = 1 is just the start of my problems – n being the number of individuals in the study, and 1 being too low to reach statistical significance. Despite the barrier, I intend to try everything, and talk to the folks on the front lines of this research.  Let’s see if it does me any good.

So stay tuned.

Oh, and by the way, do you know your IQ score? What is it?

Not quite the Smart I'm looking for...
Not quite the Smart I’m looking for…

Author: jennilaidman

I'm a freelance writer who often writes about science and medicine.

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