What do the terms ‘IQ’ and ‘Mental Acuity’ really mean, and how can they be improved? Learn the science behind boosting cognition and mental sharpness, as well as some practical, evidence-based tips to incorporate into your daily life!
Understanding IQ and Mental Acuity
To boost IQ and mental acuity, one must first understand what they are. IQ, or intelligence quotient, is a method of measuring an individual’s intellectual ability against others in the same age group. IQ is typically measured using an IQ test, and the types of intelligence assessed include crystallized intelligence and fluid intelligence. Mental acuity is slightly different from IQ and is defined as the sharpness of one’s mind. Measuring factors of mental acuity include memory, learning and processing of new ideas, focus, concentration, analysis, and understanding. Both IQ and mental acuity are the main ways we measure the brain’s function, and though neither is considered a full measurement of intelligence, they give a good picture of an individual’s cognitive function when considered together.
Though it is a common misconception that IQ and mental acuity cannot be improved or changed, there are steps one can take to boost both IQ and mental acuity. Whether you’re a parent of a developing child or just looking to engage in self-improvement, it is important to take steps to boost cognitive ability in day-to-day life to maintain a healthy and happy mind. Keep reading to find out more about how the brain works and the factors that affect its performance.
Understanding the Science of IQ and Mental Acuity
Scientists are still working to understand the minutiae of IQ and mental acuity, as the brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Here are some of the basics you should know.
How does the brain work?
It is important to understand how the brain works when looking to boost cognitive function. Methods of measuring intelligence and brain activity have been highly debated among researchers, but a popular theory of how intellect works is Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. This theory was proposed in the 1980s by Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner and suggests that people each have strengths and weaknesses in different categories of intelligence. Gardner’s multiple intelligences are musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, naturalistic, and visual-spatial.
Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is popular among educators because it highlights the different strengths people have in their cognitive function and suggests ways one may be able to learn more effectively. For example, someone who is musically intelligent might learn well from hearing information in a song, whereas someone with visual-spatial intelligence would be more successful if they could see a physical representation of what they are learning. Before Gardner’s multiple intelligences became popular, many thought intelligence was genetic and set in stone from birth. This theory reinforces the idea that intelligence and mental acuity can be improved over time with the right strategies.
How are IQ and mental acuity measured?
IQ, or intelligence quotient, is typically measured with a set of standardized tests. While IQ tests do not measure all types of intelligence from Gardener’s theory, it does measure two main types: crystallized intelligence and fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence is the brain’s ability to draw upon prior learning to utilize skills and knowledge. Fluid intelligence is the brain’s ability to use abstract thinking and reasoning to solve problems without prior learning.
While IQ measures two clearly defined types of brain function, mental acuity is a much broader term. Mental acuity, or mental sharpness, is the measurement of the brain’s overall functions like memory, learning and processing ideas, focus and concentration, analysis, and general understanding. There are many methods of measuring mental acuity, including cognitive tests and even biophysical tests that measure the brain’s response speed.
Do genetics play a role in IQ and mental acuity?
Yes, genetics do play a role in IQ and mental acuity, but intelligence is a complex human trait with both environmental and genetic influences. There is no specific gene that makes a person “smart,” but there are a large number of genes that have the capacity to affect a person’s intelligence. Research suggests that external factors like childhood exposures, a person’s environment, and frequency of cognitive stimulation have an equal or greater effect on IQ and mental acuity.
Practical Ways to Boost IQ and Mental Acuity
While there are many uncontrollable factors like genetics and childhood exposures that affect IQ and mental acuity, there are also practical ways to ensure your brain is well taken care of in your daily routine. Here are some of the main things you should be focusing on to increase cognitive function and live a healthier life:
- Diet and Nutrition
One simple way you can get started on improving your IQ and mental acuity is by making changes to diet and nutrition. It has been scientifically proven that nutrition impacts cognition and emotion, so the first step to take in improving brain function is to eat a balanced diet. Eating foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals can improve your mood, increase recall, and overall help your brain stay happy and healthy so it can take in information.
Some of these diet changes can be helpful if they are addressed early: studies show that children who have diets full of processed food and artificial sugars grow up to have lower IQs on average. However, it is never too late to make sure you are including things like iron-rich vegetables, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, and other nutrient-dense foods like nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and fermented foods.
- Exercise and Physical Activity
In addition to the connection between intelligence and diet, there is also a connection between physical exercise and cognitive function. Exercise is known best for keeping your body healthy, but what some don’t know is that increasing weekly physical activity can reduce your risk of cognitive decline later in life. A 2015 study found that adults with low levels of physical activity are almost twice as likely to experience a progressive decline in cognitive function.
It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. This can be anything from taking a walk, attending a yoga class, or even going dancing. If you’re doing something to increase your heart rate most days of the week, you’re on the right track!
- Mental Stimulation
Another major factor that impacts mental acuity and IQ is mental stimulation. Though your brain isn’t technically a muscle, it can be strengthened with regular use. Studies show that more active brains tend to have higher recall. It’s important to use your brain in many different ways on a daily basis and to continue challenging your mind to work harder.
Some daily activities you can incorporate into your routine to increase mental stimulation include reading, crossword puzzles, socializing, and mindful games like chess and cards. Your brain will always be more stimulated when performing activities that you enjoy, so be creative and find what works for you and your lifestyle!
The final daily habit with an immense impact on brain function is sleep. While you are asleep, your brain does ‘housekeeping’ and works on cleaning up the buildup of toxins in your brain. People who chronically don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of developing conditions like high blood pressure, depression, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Sleep is an important time for your brain to rest and recharge, so it’s crucial to make sure that you get enough good quality sleep if you’re looking to improve IQ and mental acuity.
It is recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, with people over 60 needing slightly less and sleeping for shorter periods. To improve the quality of your sleep, try avoiding screens for at least 30 minutes before bed and spending time relaxing before hitting the hay.
Brain Training and Cognitive Skills Development
In addition to making changes to your daily lifestyle, there are additional exercises and activities you can do to increase cognitive function. Brain training can be a good way to give your mind a good ‘workout’ and challenge yourself.
What is brain training?
Brain training, also known as cognitive training, involves regularly performing mental activities designed to increase brain functioning, usually in the form of mental exercises or puzzles.
What are the benefits of brain training?
Some of the benefits of brain training include improvements in mental acuity areas like attention, auditory/visual processing, executive functions, logic, and reasoning. While brain training tends to be popular with older adults as a way to keep their minds active, it can have benefits for people of all ages. Studies show that cognitive training is an effective method for improving academic and mental skills in children ages 5-18 who were previously struggling in those areas.
What are some brain training exercises and activities to try?
If you’re looking to try out some brain training exercises, here are some popular activities that have been shown to give your mind a good workout:
-Meditation. Meditation is an ancient practice of clearing your mind using both mental and physical techniques. It has been shown to reduce stress, improve health, and boost cognitive function. Some people meditate as a religious practice, while others engage in secular meditation or deep contemplation.
-Logic and Memory games. Logic and memory games like crossword puzzles, sudoku, and card games are great ways to engage in brain training. These games tend to be prevalent in older populations, where mental sharpness is a greater topic of concern, but logic and memory activities can be helpful for any age group.
-Learning new skills. Learning a new skill like a foreign language or musical instrument is an excellent way of training your brain. Hobbies and skills are enriching for developing children, but many don’t realize that they help improve brain health by keeping your mind stimulated.
There is no one size fits all method for brain training, so feel free to try out many different activities to see what works for you!
There are also brain training programs you can sign up for to work on your mental acuity with more rigor. There are many apps and programs to choose from, so to ensure you choose a course that will be effective it’s a good idea to make sure their methodology is evidence-based, that you feel challenged by their exercises, and that you find the interface engaging.
Improving IQ and Mental Acuity
No matter your age, it is always a good idea to focus on keeping your mind sharp and engaged. Understanding how intelligence works on a scientific level and keeping up to date with the methods of testing things like IQ and mental sharpness is a good place to start. It is also worth noting that studies show there are multiple types of intelligence, so it’s normal to have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to brain power.
IQ and mental acuity are not genetic predispositions and can be influenced by the way you live your day-to-day life. Practical changes to sleep, diet, and exercise as well as participation in brain training activities and puzzles can boost cognitive ability and mental sharpness. Try signing up for a language course, going on a walk in the mornings, or engaging in a stimulating social conversation at least a few times a week.
It can be intimidating to get started on a new brain training regimen, but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see improvements in things like response time and mental clarity. Keep educating yourself on improving IQ and mental acuity and check out new methods to keep your mind engaged as you come across them. You can get amazing, cognition-boosting results if you just put your mind to it!