The Wall Street Journal just publicized a scientifically proven technique you can use to increase your IQ: dual N-back exercises. This is one of the brain hacking techniques from The Bulletproof Executive program, and it’s close to my heart because I’ve used it since 2009 with great success, boosting my IQ at least 18 points (I took standardized IQ tests before and after). Dave “only” gained 12 IQ points from it, but he didn’t do as many sessions as I did, and he’d already raised his IQ with other methods.
From an efficiency perspective, that’s incredible. I gained 2.75 IQ points for every hour of brain training I did.
N-back exercise is simple–a grid of 9 squares is presented on screen like this:
Every few seconds one of the 8 squares of the grid (center one isn’t used) lights up with a colored box and a letter is spoken aloud. This continues for 20 repetitions. Your goal is to press a key when the present location (visual) or letter spoken (audio) matches the one that occurred “N” ago. When you recognize a certain % of the repetitions by pressing the keys accurately, the software increases N by 1. You start with N = 2. One exercise consists of about 20 minutes of repeating the exercises. It doesn’t really matter how high of “N” you reach–as long as you’re challenged, you’re raising your IQ.
Here’s a graph of my N level for my first 20 sessions (total of just 6.5 hours of training):
See how long I was stuck at N = 4? It took my brain a few days to adapt and forge new neural pathways, but once I broke beyond 4, I was immediately able to process far more information–look at the graph skyrocket as my brain adapted to handling more information at once.
The best part about N-back training is that it’s permanent. After the 20 sessions you see above I did no training for a full 8 months to see if I’d forget the skill and have to start over. The results were an astounding OPPOSITE of what I expected, as if my brain had further optimized itself during the 8 months off. Here are my scores for another 14 sessions 8 months after I started the training:
My max N level is currently 9–a level I would not have dreamed of reaching when I was stuck between 3 and 4 for days and days.
I’ve used a Zeo to track my sleep patterns after N-back training to see what my brain was up to the following night. The result? Drastically higher REM sleep percentages, often between 30-40% of sleep–proof enough that the N-back training boosts brain optimization significantly. One night my REM even exceeded light:
So what does a higher IQ get you?
1. Faster problem solving
N-back training teaches your brain to juggle more factors at the same time than it could before. If you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s extremely useful to be able to remember all the factors you know at once. A classic example would be running through look ahead moves in a chess game. If you don’t remember the 2nd and 3rd moves you planned, how can you design a strategy 5 moves ahead? N-back training is the answer.
2. A more insightful synthetic imagination
In Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill talks about two kinds of imagination–synthetic imagination and creative imagination. Synthetic is the one we use the most, it’s when our brains combine existing known information and derive new insights from it or see new patterns. Creative imagination is a bit different; creative involves flashes of insight that aren’t necessarily related to what we already know. More on creative imagination later–I’ve noticed N-back training boosts my synthetic imagination significantly. After N-back training, you’ll be able to solve every day problems and tasks faster and more easily because you’ll “just see the answer,” and your academic or career performance will soar.
3. A better memory
Dave first noticed the effects when he unconsciously memorized restaurant take-out orders for 10 family members so he could call them in. His family was floored but he didn’t realize why until they told him they couldn’t do it without writing things down. In both of our experiences, once you get new brain skills, there’s no going back, and they immediately feel natural and like a part of you.
How do you start?
Dave and I both use software called IQ Mindware i3, posted here at UpgradedSelf.com. It’s designed by neuroscientist Mark Ashton Smith and conforms strictly to the parameters used in the original 2008 study (Jaeggi et al.) that pioneered N-back training.
There’s also an open source version of the software called Brain Workshop. Dave and I both tested the open source one and found it difficult to use, and the default parameters are not Jaeggi, but it’s free!
You will find that any brain hacking you do is far easier when you’re on the Bulletproof Diet. The extra healthy fatty acids boost neurological development and brain mitochondrial function. The Bulletproof Diet is used today by artificial intelligence researchers to keep their brains sharp! While you can develop your mental powers on any diet, we found it was much easier and faster on an optimized diet.
That’s it. If you give this a try, please let us know how you do in the comments here! We’ll answer questions as often as we can.