IQ booster pills on the way?

IQ booster pills could be on the way
Could IQ booster pills be on the way?

Many researchers are now involved in the evaluation of ways to halt the effects of ageing. In terms of IQ and cognitive ability, I have written extensively on how General Intelligence (or G) can be decomposed into two broad types of intelligence: (1) fluid intelligence (Gf), which is akin to raw processing power of the brain and our ability to solve novel problems; and (2) crystallized intelligence (Gc), which is related to our ability to absorb and use verbal and general knowledge, and is more closely related to one’s formal education.

As one might expect, the effects of ageing on cognitive ability are not good. What we know from the academic literature on the subject is that fluid IQ tends to peak in our mid 20s and starts declining (and fairly steeply) thereafter. The news is a little bit more positive in respect of crystallized intelligence. That is, Gc peaks in our 50s, and begins a gradual decline thereafter. IQ booster pills or a pill that could end this decline would be the holy grail of cognitive ability preservation for a globally ageing population.

Surmising the situation, fluid intelligence (Gf) includes several sub-components of cognitive ability including: (i) processing speed (Gs); (ii) visualization (Gv) and (iii) short-term memory / working memory (Gsm).

One of the reasons why Fluid intelligence diminishes with age is that older people will see their processing speed, visualization and working memory deteriorate.

Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, can peak much later if older people carry on reading and learning.

IQ booster pills on the way?

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the Gladstone Institutes had been investigating ways to stifle the effects and the role of ageing of klotho, a protein which is encoded by the gene known as KL. It had been discovered that a particular version of the gene, called KL-VS (believed to be present in 20% of human beings), promotes longevity. KL-VS had been shown to increase longevity by decreasing age-related heart disease. But when the researchers turned their attention to the effects of KL-VS on cognitive ability or IQ, they found that KL-VS did not curb the decline (gravity is inevitable), as they had hoped, but instead they found that KL-VS did boost IQ by up to 6 points, regardless of age. If this result is confirmed by the research community, KL-VS will be the strongest IQ booster and explanatory factor of genetic IQ variation ever discovered. It is believed that KL-VS could explain as much as 3% of the total variation in human IQ. Although 3% may sound low, this number is multiples greater than other genes believed to explain cognitive ability which had been discovered previously. This finding is also significant as It could mean that an IQ boosting pill could be on the way.

The finding has now been confirmed in mice and other evaluations are ongoing. The applications are compelling: pharma companies might be able to make this into an IQ booster pill format which could help boost the IQ of people who do not have the KL-VS variant of the gene. This would be the IQ booster breakthrough of the Century, and the enable some of us to sharpen our senses.

To test your fluid intelligence, click here.

Improve your IQ

Being a lifelong student can help improve your IQ
Remaining a student for longer can help improve your IQ and intelligence

As discussed in previous posts, IQs can change over time. In particular, IQ scores may change fairly substantially during childhood and typically stabilize in your teenage years. This can be seen as good news as there may be scope to influence the development of IQ . But it is important to distinguish between the different types of intelligence and how easy it is to improve each type. We also emphasize in this post that it it much easier to improve your IQ score than it is to genuinely improve your intelligence, although both are possible with practice, dedication and suitable lifestyle choices.

In simple terms, general intelligence can be decomposed into two parts: (1) Fluid intelligence, which represents one’s ability to solve novel problems; and (2) Crystallized intelligence,  which relates to one’s ability to learn, retrieve and apply concepts that are either taught or learned. Crystallized intelligence for instance, is much higher in people who pursue advanced degrees or who read a lot of intellectually stimulating materials.

Now that we understand the broad types of intelligence, how do these change as we age?Fluid intelligence peaks in our mid 20s, and begins a fairly steep decline thereafter. Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, grows steadily until your mid 50s and begins a gentle decline thereafter. Scientific studies therefore confirm that IQ levels change naturally over time, although is possible to alter the so-called natural trajectory as discussed below.

Improve your IQ as well as your general intelligence

First and foremost, it has been shown that fluid intelligence is more difficult to improve relative to crystallized intelligence. This is so because fluid intelligence is thought to be largely innate and reflects your ability to solve problems that you should never have encountered before. Unlike studying for an exam (which makes higher use of crystallized intelligence, and the left hemisphere of the brain) for which you know broadly what materials may be tested, there is limited scope for teaching someone how to be able to react more effectively to never-before encountered situations. What would the curriculum of this course look like? If fluid intelligence is assessed by measuring someone’s ability to solve novel problems, it clearly would make no sense to have a training session to prepare the student on how to solve the problems that are likely to be encountered on such a test.

But the case for improving your fluid intelligence is not a hopeless one. Enter working memory. Working memory is your mental scratchpad or chalkboard which holds information temporarily while you attempt to solve a particular problem. Training your working memory is one of the few approaches that have garnered some scientific support in respect of your ability to genuinely improve your fluid intelligence. More specific training methods will be discussed on future posts.

All of this said, it is easier to improve your IQ score on fluid intelligence tests (i.e. your IQ score) than it is to genuinely improve your fluid intelligence. You can improve your IQ score on a fluid intelligence test by following these recommended steps:

  1. Practice speed and thinking under pressure: this will help ensure that you don’t lose seconds unnecessarily on a timed fluid intelligence test. Processing speed (Gs) is trainable
  2. Attempt as many different types of fluid intelligence tests as possible as you will then begin to establish patterns in respect of the types of questions that might crop up on these tests. In other words, you are diminishing the surprise element on the test or the novel factor by exposing yourself to more types of situations that are meant to be novel
  3. Take each test more than once, and you will start seeing patterns that you may not have spotted the first time around. Practice effects resulting in improvement of up to 8 IQ points are widely known
  4. Learning new skills has been shown to increase the amount of grey matter in your brain. Learning how to juggle and practicing for at least 30 minutes a day will help your reflexes and processing speed

Again, it is unlikely that the above-mentioned methods will help you in genuinely improving your intelligence, but they will definitely help you improve your IQ score.

Achieving a genuine improvement in crystallized intelligence (and crystallized IQ scores), on the other hand, is much easier.

  1. It has been shown that for groups, each year of additional schooling raises IQ
  2. Read more complex material and stretch yourself
  3. Learning a new language, particularly a complex one with a different alphabet, can also bolster cognition

Lifestyle choices are also critical. I will cover some of these in future posts.

In the meantime, try our fluid IQ intelligence test HERE to get an accurate read of your IQ.