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A fascinating article in a recent New York Times magazine,  explores the latest area of brain training, the idea of actually impacting IQ, or as it is described in the article, fluid intelligence.

The article explores the various studies that have been done in this area.  In almost all cases, using a variety of cognitive training exercises, were able to show gains that showed up in IQ testing.  The outstanding issues appear to be more related to:

  1. Will the gains last
  2. Do these gains carry-over into improved real world academic performance.

For sure, these are interesting times for cognitive training.  Improved academic performance can come from changing either IQ or learning skills — it is the combination that defines academic outcomes.

Learning Is Not Fixed. What About IQ?

While it was at one time thought that both IQ and learning ability were fixed, as of the 1990s through the work of Dr. Michael Merzenich and others it has become established science that the brain is like a muscle and learning can improve with cognitive training.

More recently, there are questions about IQ.  One of the most important inputs into IQ is working memory — Einstein’s immense intelligence is thought to have been due to his ability to hold and manipulate 15+ ideas in his head at any one time.

Working memory is a skill that can be improved with cognitive training, opening up the idea that IQ also may not be fixed.  Improved working memory may directly improve IQ.

Fast ForWord

Fast ForWord is a cognitive training program used by Gemm Learning, that works on learning and working memory skills.  We use Fast ForWord to provide help with dyslexia, reading and other learning issues.  By improving processing, focus and working memory skills, our treatment makes language and reading easier and more natural.

Interestingly, Fast ForWord has also been part of long term studies, using an IQ test each year, and it has shown that students have made gains for the 3-4 years after doing the program. We have always attributed these gains to the fact that IQ tests require good reading and language skills, and that is where Fast ForWord excels.  But it is possible that the working memory gains from Fast ForWord, so critical to IQ, really are impacting fluid intelligence.