There’s a new trend in learning aids, and this one may be able to raise your IQ. “Brain training” facilities claim they can improve both IQ and cognitive skills through a regimen of games aimed at promoting brain elasticity and fluid intelligence. Though there are many companies specializing in brain training, the most notable is LearningRx, the only brick-and-mortar brain trainer, numbering 83 franchises. The rest of the trainers are either web-based or software-based, and include industry players such as Lumosity, Cogmed, Posit Science, and MindSparke.

Brain training seems deceptively simple: play games either online or with trainers and quickly increase your processing speed, logic, memory, and attention. But there is a heavy dose of science behind it. The n-back, introduced in 1958 and the most popular game in the business, challenges memory, asking users to recall things such as the color of an image or the location of a letter. The item that has been presented immediately before is 1-back, the time before last is 2-back, and the time before that is 3-back. This continues further backwards if the trainee successfully remembers the requested detail or moves to an easier level if the detail is missed. The n-back is used to improve fluid intelligence, which is the ability to both reason quickly and think abstractly; some other brain training tactics are not quite as science based, such as clapping to teach trainees to ignore distractions. It may sound a touch crude, but it seems to work.

Erin Matlock, the editor-in-chief of, a Web site dedicated to the promotion of brain and mental health products, completed a 19-day trial of MindSparke’s Brain Fitness Pro as a test to see just how well brain training works. Ms. Matlock, a registered member of Mensa, spent around 30 minutes a day in computer-based training sessions for her trial run. She took an IQ test both before and after she completed the nearly three weeks of training, and came up with a twelve-point increase.

Because research on the programs is quite new, scientists disagree whether one can truly improve through brain training or if trainees are merely learning to take tests. However, LearningRx reports IQ leaps of up to 15 points after 24 weeks and 20 points in less than 32 weeks of training. The web-based trainers do not claim that their programs improve IQ, but they definitely believe the programs increase cognitive performance.

Matlock can certainly attest to that claim. She acknowledges that her second IQ test was an approximation, as it was online and not professionally done. However, she could not ignore the improvements she noticed in her day-to-day life, including increased brain stamina, short-term memory, and productivity levels. With such quick results, Matlock thoroughly endorses the product.

Further Reading:

“The Brain Trainers,” The New York Times, accessed February 6, 2013.
“How I Improved My Productivity, Strengthened My Working Memory and Increased My IQ Score by 12 Points in 19 Days” Brain Training 101.