A study published this month in the prestigious journal Intelligence has shown:
- Cognitive training combined with exercise results in gains in fluid intelligence (visuospatial reasoning) – a key measure of IQ.
- Fitness only training did not bolster fluid intelligence performance.
- Individuals varied in benefits to fluid intelligence from mindfulness training.
The research team concluded:
“Because fluid intelligence test scores predict real-world outcomes across the lifespan, boosting intelligence ability via multi-modal intervention that is effective even in young, healthy adults is a promising avenue to improve reasoning and decision making in daily life.”
Bottom line: The strongest case to date that working memory and executive control training (such as implemented in i3 Mindware) combined with exercise – results in an IQ gain with an effect size indicating a practical impact in daily life.
Unlike studies showing null results from brain training, this training method – like IQ Mindware apps – implements a multi-modal approach – combining both dual n-back (working memory) training with executive control training, in combination with the neuroplasticity benefits of exercise.
The study was conducted by a strong team of researchers across multiple disciplines (Psychology, Neuroscience, Bioengineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering), using the most rigorous methods available.
The study was a comprehensive 4-month randomized controlled trial in which 424 healthy adults (age 18–43 years, 50% Caucasian) were divided into four groups:
(1) Fitness training
(2) Fitness training and computer-based cognitive training
(3) Fitness, cognitive training, and mindfulness meditation
(4) Active control
- Warm-up (10 min)
- Intervals of speed and recovery of static walking or running (10 min)
- High-intensity cardio-resistance / aerobic training (30 min)
- Yoga / stretching (10 min)
Computer Based Training
- 2 working memory games (including the dual n-back)
- 3 executive control games (e.g. attention flexibility and strategic planning)
- 1 visuospatial reasoning game
- Breathing exercises (5 min)
- Guided meditation (5 min)
- Gentle movement/stretching (15 min)
- Two periods of silent meditation (15 min each)
- Change detection
- Visual search tasks
- LSAT – standardized achievement test used to determine admittance into law school and by design evaluates logical reasoning. This is a measure of verbal fluid intelligence.
- Figure Series – work out a rule to complete a number of figures. This is a measure of visuospatial fluid reasoning.
These are standard IQ (fluid reasoning) tests used by professional psychologists and educationalists.
The results of training are shown in the figure below. Where there is an asterix there is a statistically significant change in fluid intelligence. The Fit group are those who did fitness training only. The Fit-MF group are those who did fitness and cognitive training. The Fit-MF-Mind group did fitness, cognitive training and mindfulness training.
All groups improved in visuospatial fluid intelligence (Figure Series). All brain training groups did better than the control group, but one group – the one doing both cognitive training and fitness training – did significantly better than the control group. ‘Significance’ is a strict statistical criteria that reassures us that the gains were not due to test practice effects or placebo effects relating to expectations about the benefits of the training or extra confidence.
The ‘effect size’ is really substantial. Dual n-back training along gives an effect size of only 0.14 (ref) while combining it with executive control training (as in i3 Mindware and HighIQPro) and exercise brings this up to 0.55 which is defined as a ‘large’ effect size – much greater than the effectiveness of most drugs available on the market for various medical conditions.
Why didn’t adding mindfulness to the mix help with IQ gains?
The authors say that individual’s benefits from mindfulness are divided: some benefit and they do show a significant IQ gain compared to the control group, while others do not.
“within the Fit-MF-Mind group, individuals varied in their responsiveness to the intervention, and those who showed relatively greater gains in Figure Series also performed better on novel tests of Gf at post-intervention. Mindfulness is expected to require cognitive and attentional resources that are also demanded during task performance, and it appears that individuals differ in their ability to adapt to these demands and benefit from the exercise.”
These results are in line with previous results and help make sense of studies showing no IQ gains from working memory training, when clearly the right type of brain training helps considerably in getting smarter. Here is what we now know.
- Combining executive control brain training with working memory (dual n-back) training is more effective in increasing IQ than either alone.
- Visuospatial intelligence benefits from training while verbal reasoning does not.
- Combining the brain training with exercise improves the IQ gains: the brain cross-training principle.
A fantastic result for those of us who have invested time in developing brain training intervention to get smarter
Example fluid reasoning test items of the type found in visuospatial IQ tests.