Improving Cognition

Improving Cognition was the title of the presentation John Jonides made as his William James Fellow Award address at this year’s meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). The specific cognition Jonides sought to improve was fluid intelligence (see the blog post “Fluid Intelligence and Working Memory”). Typically intelligence is broken down into two generic types: crystalized intelligence and fluid intelligence. Crystalized intelligence is comprised of everything we know. This component of intelligence, absent pathology, typically remains intact as we age. As we age, it might take longer to remember certain information, but we typically can recall it given enough time and cues. Fluid intelligence is the component that deals with processing new information and novel problems. Fluid intelligence consists of the capacity of working memory (the amount of information it can hold at one time) and the attentional processes that work on this information and solve the novel problems. It is this component of intelligence that tends to decline as we age.

Jonides reported a program that after seventeen days of training produced an average gain of six IQ points in fluid intelligence. I will not get into the specifics of the training program, but it was quite demanding . The general characteristics of this program were as follows. It energized all processes of working memory. It did not use material specific processes. Task difficulty was increased as performance became better. However, performance needed to reach a stable level before difficulty was increase. If performance fell, then the task difficulty was decreased. Practice periods were spaced.

fMRI of the brains of research participants was also done. The trained regions brain requied less blood flow indicating that the trained brains had become more efficient.

This was great news, but the question remains whether this training can remediate age-related loss in cognitive skills. Jonides intends to address this question in future research. I think we can count on him following through on this research. He is a baby boomer so this research is of personal significance to him.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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2 Responses to “Improving Cognition”

  1. puff iluminado Says:

    First of all I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Appreciate it!

    • healthymemory Says:

      First of all, I thank you for your kind words. Usually I’ve been thinking about the post for some time before I sit down to write it. If that does not work well for you, I would try meditating. I would suggest the following posts:

      “improving Nonjudgmental Awareness”
      “Improving Selective Attention”

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