How to Build a Better Brain

Recent research confirms there are concrete steps you can take to increase your intelligence. And thanks to the brain's neuroplasticity, scientists now believe it is never to late to start.

What's the Latest Development?

Learning a new language is perhaps the best way to increase your mental acuity. When a bilingual speaker is confronted by two words with the same meaningmano or hand?—the brain's prefontal cortex, which controls high-order functions, steps in to choose. Attention is another important marker of intelligence, so holding yours long enough to memorize poetry, for example, is a good way to boost your brain's performance. Exercising, too, builds the brain by stimulating the creation of new neurons. Or just take a nap—it improves recall!

What's the Big Idea?

Once thought of as a static organ, particularly after your twenties, new research suggests the brain is much more plastic than previously thought. In other words, you can still change the structure of the brain well into middle age. "IQ, long thought to be largely unchangeable after early childhood, can in fact be raised. And not by a niggling point or two. ... IQ can rise by a staggering 21 points over four years—or fall by 18." And a bump in intelligence could mean retaining more of the skills you learn. In short, a life better lived.

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