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Students Boost Their IQ With Mental Exercise

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Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

By: Robyn Gee

Researchers at the University of Michigan found a way to boost the intelligence level of elementary and middle school students in Detroit, news that will ripple through the community of researchers who study malleable intelligence.

According to Jonah Lehrer in his column "The Frontal Cortex," 15 students were given a specific mental exercise for 15 minutes a day. After a month of this "training," they showed gains equal to five IQ points on a standard IQ test. Their improvement even continued for three months after they had stopped the mental training. The mental exercise is called the N-back test, and has been around since 1958. For this experiment, the test was administered in a video-game format. Students watch a screen and note the location of a cartoon character. Then the character moves around the screen and the student must hit the space bar whenever the character returns to its initial location.

Check out some N-back apps for yourself (though Lehrer points out that they have not been endorsed by scientists):

For a long time, scientists thought that intelligence was innate, according to David Shenk, author of "The Genius Is In All of Us." He writes, "In the last twenty years, that message has been reinforced by the very misleading idea of 'heritability,' which comes from twin studies and have been interpreted by many as saying that intelligence is 50-60 percent inherited and pre-ordained by our individual genetic codes." The University of Michigan study refutes this idea.

Performing this study with students gives the data added potential because it can impact the education reform debate. While discussing how to close the achievement gap, how will teachers and students adapt to, and incorporate, the idea that intelligence is proven not to be determined at birth? Does this turn the focus towards motivation? To community resources? But regardless, these findings will have serious implications for how we think about learning in the future.

Support for this content is provided in part by the National Science Foundation.

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