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Sure, exercises to improve memory are better for your brain than, say, watching reality TV, but the most you're going to gain is more reliable access to knowledge already scattered around your cerebral cortex.
If the information isn't in there, no amount of brain training will tell you how the Federal Reserve system functions, why the Confederacy lost the Civil War, the significance of Picasso's or why Word just crashed.
It all sounds great, but there's something that has long bothered us about the growing number of studies pinpointing ways to buff your brain: they don't go far enough.
Meditation to hone connections between reason and emotion.
IQ, measured by a battery of tests of working memory, spatial skills, and pattern recognition, among others, captures a wide range of cognitive skills, from spatial to verbal to analytical and beyond.
The key to these kinds of gains is "intensive training," says Kandel—not quite the quick brain fix we're told can come simply from eating blueberries or drinking pomegranate juice.
Not to mention the kind of information that could significantly improve your day-to-day life: wouldn't it be wonderful to understand and remember more of what you read and hear (what's the catch with annuities again?
), to learn—and retain—new skills to improve your job prospects (animated Power-Points!
Although working on short-term memory—basically, the brain's scratch pad—has long been considered just one component of overall IQ, recent research shows that it may in fact be the lever that can raise overall intelligence.
In one of the biggest surprises in intelligence research, scientists led by Susanne Jaeggi of the University of Michigan found in 2008 that short-term memory may be the foundation of pure intelligence to a greater extent than anyone suspected.
What's interesting is that those same regions also jump into action when the brain reasons and thinks.