Thursday, March 26, 2009

Increasing Intelligence by Playing a Memory Game – Experiment Update

Can exercising your brain increase your IQ score?
Can exercising your brain increase your IQ score? (Photo by hyperscholar)

This is an update on my intelligence experiment, in which I play a memory game to see if it increases my IQ test score.

In the original study related to this experiment, the participants played a memory game (called dual n-back) for 8-19 days and increased their IQ test scores more than the control group. This remarkable finding suggests that, unlike previously thought, it might be possible to increase one's general intelligence by exercising the brain.

When I began the experiment, I wrote that I would try to match the study as closely as possible. That is, I was supposed to take an IQ test, play the game for 20 days and then re-take the IQ test to see if it my results had improved. Of course, I had no control group, so I would just have to compare the scores and try to determine whether the increase in the score was significant enough to count as a genuine improvement.

That was two and a half months ago. I did play the game almost daily for the first 20 days, aiming to play 20 rounds each time, which was the number used in the study. After that, however, it occurred to me that if the game does increase one's intelligence, then playing it for even longer than 20 days should increase it even more, so there's really no point in limiting the experiment to 20 days, especially since I had no control group.

Also, since re-taking an IQ test usually results in a slightly better score each time, I thought it would make more sense to keep playing for a longer time and avoid re-taking the test after such a short while. This way, when I finally took the IQ test for the second time, the difference in scores should be even clearer.

After the 20 days, however, I've been somewhat lazy and haven't played the game as often as I did in the beginning. Nonetheless, there has been something of a trend in my game scores improving during these past two and a half months, so I've finally taken the IQ test again. But first, here are the dual n-back scores of the study participants:

Dual n-back scores
And here are my results:

My dual n-back scores
Believe it or not, the sudden drops in the graph are not due to periods of increased stupidity; rather, they're scores from days when I played only a few games for one reason or another. Since the game begins from level n=2 each day and the total score of the day is the average n of all rounds played, playing just a few rounds will result in a low score. There's no excuse for that last dot on the graph, however. I just played really badly!

The two graphs aren't entirely comparable, because the version of the game the participants in the study played was a little different than the one I played (though the study mode is available in the game, too, as I've later learned). Still, the increase in the score of the participants seems larger than mine, which means that either they were smarter and better than me, or they cheated and the study is completely flawed. Needless to say, I lean towards the latter option.

So what about the IQ tests? As I mentioned in the first post, the idea was to take two tests and compare the scores of both, so that I'd have a more reliable result. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the IQ test used in the study online, so I had to use what was available. In addition, the second test proved to be exactly the same on both times, so it wasn't of much use. It also gave me a much higher score than the other test, which casts further doubt on its validity.

The other test proved to be quite good (you can find it here). In this one, the questions vary, the difficulty is adjusted on the go depending on whether you answer them correctly, and there's a time limit of 45 seconds per question, which makes this test better suited for re-taking. My first test, taken before playing the game, gave me a score of 126; my second test, taken yesterday, gave me a score of 132 (an increase of about 5%).

This result is again not easily compared to the results from the study, because their test gave scores in the range of 9 to 12, whereas the one I took used 100 as a measure of an average intelligence. The control group saw an increase from ~9.5 to ~10.5 (an increase of about 15%), while the memory game group increased their score from ~9.5 to ~12 (an increase of about 25%).

As you can see, it's kind of difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from this. Yes, there was a slight increase in my score, but I would say a similar increase could've been possible even without playing the game. I think the variation in the IQ test questions reduces the "learning by heart" effect, but that's impossible to say without a control group.

Since there's nothing to lose and possibly plenty to gain, I'm going to keep playing the game and re-take the IQ test after some more months. And if you know of any good IQ tests online, drop a comment and let me know!

For more information on brains and intelligence, see these posts:

Playing a Memory Game to Improve Intelligence and Increase Your IQ Score?
Caloric Restriction Improves Memory in the Elderly
Moderate and Severe Caloric Restriction Alter Behavior Differently in Rats
Intermittent Fasting Reduces Mitochondrial Damage and Lymphoma Incidence in Aged Mice

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4 kommenttia:

MedDog November 25, 2009 at 3:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
MedDog November 25, 2009 at 3:12 AM  

Well, if your setting happened to be at all comparable to that of the guy in the picture, a reduction in IQ would be expected as blood would flow out of the brain to a different "thinking" organ.

Maxim May 15, 2010 at 10:05 AM  

Thank you for your blog,

i have been experimenting with some of the same things, that you do.

Concerning intelligence raising games, I have not found anything scienfically sounder than:

Give it a try if you wish :-)

mirela February 24, 2014 at 9:57 PM  

Hi. I whould like to use some informations from this topic in a work paper(licence) at the University. Can you give me your name please?

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