Myth-Busters: “It’s not what you don’t know that concerns me. It’s what you know that is not true that concerns me.”

Let’s start off on the right foot and destroy a myth.

Myth: IQ Cannot Be Changed… Students are Fixed the Way They Are

Completely false! Brains can change! In fact, the worse students are academically, the greater the upside. There are no credible studies (yet) of raising IQ in kids with high IQ already. But many, many studies show that kids with an IQ in the 70-100 range can have it raised. In study after study, we find that every single component of intelligence can be raised.

In one study (Mackey, et al., 2011) children aged 7 to 9 from poverty participated in one of two cognitive training programs for 60 minutes/day and 2 days/week, for a total of 8 weeks. Children in the reasoning group improved substantially (an average increase of 10 points in Performance IQ.) By contrast, children in the speed group improved substantially in different areas. Counter to widespread mythology, these results indicate that both fluid reasoning and processing speed are modifiable by purposeful training.

What about kids from poverty; can you raise their IQ? Yes, you can. In fact, among the poor, the heritability of IQ is far less than among middle and upper income students. The heritability of IQ among kids from low-income families from their parents is less than 10%. It’s over 60% for middle and upper income families. In other words, don’t blame the parents for a poor child’s low school performance. Before age four, the caregivers ARE the dominant influence. But once in kindergarten, school is the dominant influence.

Kids will spend nearly 13,000 hours in school from K-12. This means the IQ of the parents of poor kids is less of a factor than the environment you create at school. That’s right; it means your staff has NO excuses for students to underperform.

INSIGHT: You can change your student’s brain in the following ways: 1) strengthen working memory, 2) speed up processing activity, 3) boost patience and deferred gratification, 4) attentional skills, 5) social-emotional skills, and 6) even boost intelligence!

But, these skills all require some time and savvy, purposeful teaching. You can embed every one of the skills listed above into any subject you teach. For example, to support working memory a teacher can give brief directions to her students, then immediately ask students to repeat the directions to a neighbor.

Now this activity by itself won’t make a miracle. It takes sustained purposeful practice. But the point is, this can be embedded in any class, every day, with all your students. But how do you embed the practice of the skills? Follow the rules!

WHAT TO DO: Make this year more purposeful. Smart targeted teaching that focuses on capacity-building will help raise student performance. Any of the following activities can improve thinking, working memory and processing.

  • Have students repeat the directions to a task out loud to a partner.
  • Speak a sentence, ask kids to write it verbatim.
  • Do more “Simon-Sez” activities.
  • Do total physical response tasks like touching, and saying “Shoulders and toes, eyes and knees.” Learn to do it faster, then add variations.

To maximize skill-building, get buy-in. If the brain’s not buying into it, it’s not changing. The task must be coherent to the student. There must be a way for them to make mistakes and alter performance based on learning from the mistake. They must do the practice for 5-60 minutes a day, for 3-5X per week.

Any of the rules above can be broken or altered, but you’ll compromise the effectiveness of the practice. Make this year a great year; build your student’s brain!

Eric Jensen

ALZHEIMER’S UPDATE: Last post was on Alzheimer’s disease and the latest treatments for it. We had a huge response! This month, two additional items are worth mentioning. First, another quality, peer-reviewed study (just published) showed that the treatment I revealed to you (Galantamine) is even more effective than earlier research suggested. For each year of treatment with Galantamine, the risk of ending up in a nursing home was reduced by 31%. That’s amazing! Galantamine is available at Life Enhancement by clicking here. If it seems expensive, so are nursing homes. By the way, I never have, and never will, take any compensation for any product I recommend.

Second, some new research suggests that there may be a strong link between herpes simplex virus (very common) and Alzheimer’s disease. Two effective, safe treatments would be: 1) daily dosage of 350 mg of BHT or 2) lysine, both inhibitors of herpes. Both are available at health food stores. As I have said, I am not a doctor, nor am I prescribing anything. The research suggests BHT and lysine both suppress herpes, which has been recently implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Again, I present the science, you make the decisions.

Research Sources of Myth Busting:
Ball K, Edwards JD, Ross LA. (2007) The impact of speed of processing training on cognitive and everyday functions. J Gerontology B Psychology Science Soc Sci.Jun;62 Spec No 1:19-31.
Bergman Nutley S, Söderqvist S, Bryde S, Thorell LB, Humphreys K, Klingberg T. (2011) Gains in fluid intelligence after training non-verbal reasoning in 4-year-old children: a controlled, randomized study. Dev Sci. May; 14 (3): 591-601.
Ceci, SJ (1991) How much does schooling influence general intelligence and its cognitive components? A reassessment of the evidence. Developmental Psychology, Vol 27(5), Sept. 703-722.
Draganski B, Gaser C, Busch V, Schuierer G, Bogdahn U, May A (2004) Neuroplasticity: changes in grey matter induced by training. Nature 427:311-312.
Duyme, M., Dumaret, A. C., & Tomkiewicz, S. (1999, July 20). How can we boost IQs of “dull children”? A late adoption study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 96(15), 8790-8794.
Harden KP, Turkheimer E, Loehlin JC. Genotype by environment interaction in adolescents’ cognitive aptitude. Behav Genet. 2007 Mar; 37(2): 273-83.
Jonides, J. (2008) “Musical Skill and Cognition” Pgs. 11-16. In “How Arts Training Influences Cognition” in “Learning, Arts, and the Brain: The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition” Organized by: Gazzaniga, M., Edited by Asbury, C. and Rich, B. Published by Dana Press. New York/Washington, D.C. web access:
Mackey AP, Hill SS, Stone SI, Bunge SA (2011) Differential effects of reasoning and speed training in children. Dev Sci. May; 14(3):582-90.
Polley DB, Steinberg EE, Merzenich MM. (2006) Perceptual learning directs auditory cortical map reorganization through top-down influences. J Neurosci. May 3;26(18):4970-82.
Turkheimer, E., Haley, A., Waldron, M., D’Onofrio, B., and Gottesman, I. I. 2003. Socioeconomic status modifies heritability of IQ in young children. Psychol. Sci. 14, 623-628).

Mori I. (2011) Spontaneous molecular reactivation’ of herpes simplex virus type 1 in the brain as a pathogenic mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease. Med Hypotheses. Aug.
Rubey RN. Could lysine supplementation prevent Alzheimer’s dementia? A novel hypothesis. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2010 Oct 27;6:707-10.
Scarpini E, Bruno G, Zappalà G, Adami M, Richarz U, Gaudig M, Jacobs A, Schäuble B. (2011) Cessation versus Continuation of Galantamine Treatment after 12 Months of Therapy in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease: A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Withdrawal Trial. J Alzheimers Disease. May 23.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Toni Blay

One Comment

Leave a Reply