Some of my: Inventions | Magazine interviews | Sheds | Favorite ER memories

Information for people contemplating
a career in emergency medicine and
other medical specialties

By Kevin Pezzi, MD


Proof that intelligence can be improved

by , MD

For many years, I asseverated that people can increase their IQs if they give their minds the proper stimuli to fuel this expansion of intelligence. Researchers finally—and belatedly—have proof that I was right.

Postdoctoral fellows Susanne Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl, working at the University of Michigan, found that fluid intelligence can be improved through memory training.

First, some background information:

Fluid intelligence is the ability to solve new problems by understanding relationships between various concepts without using prior knowledge or skills.

Crystallized intelligence is the ability to solve problems by using existing knowledge, experience, and skills already stored in long-term memory.

Dr. Jaeggi said, "Our brain is more plastic [capable of being shaped or formed; malleable; adaptable] than we might think." This is precisely what I've told my readers for the past decade.

Want this free book? Contact me.

Crystallized intelligence relies on long-term memory while fluid intelligence relies on working memory, one facet of which is short-term memory. The latter is what people use to remember a bit of information, such as a phone number, for a short time (seconds). Working memory refers to the ability to store, evaluate, manipulate, process, and use information briefly held in the mind. That information may come from recalling something previously memorized, from the environment (e.g., hearing someone verbalize a phone number so you can call that number), or even from your internal state ("When I followed that tip from Dr. Pezzi's The Science of Sex book, my orgasm felt like _______—just as he said it would"). Most of the mental functions associated with human intelligence depend upon working memory, which is to your brain what your CPU is to your computer.

People with above-average working memory generally have higher IQs and exhibit superior reading comprehension, learning, and problem solving skills. The more information you can hold in your mind at any one time, the information you can interrelate. This process is central to inventing, "putting two and two together," understanding the relationships (and utility of them!) between discrete and often seemingly unrelated bits of information, or simply "seeing the big picture" or "making sense of it all." Incidentally, people with better working memory are more able to fully construct or comprehend long, information-rich sentences, such as the preceding one.

On the emergency medicine newsgroup that I sometimes participate in, I was stunned to hear one doctor complain that he could not understand anything I said. I am obviously not illiterate, so I surmised that his difficulty stemmed from the fact that I tend to write longer-than-average sentences. That comes natural for me because I write the way I think. Furthermore, putting multiple concepts together in this way allows writers to pack more information into a given space. If you've read one of my books, such as The Science of Sex or Fascinating Health Secrets, you know that you learn more from them than from reading a stack of books from other authors who have a knack for droning on and on without revealing any great tips.

The finding that memory training improves fluid intelligence (and quite likely general IQ) was especially intriguing to me because memory training was perhaps the most fundamental component of what I did to go from a dunce to a doctor who graduated in the top 1% of his class in medical school and excelled in other areas, such as inventing and general creativity. However, just as a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, other things I did were also vital to my intellectual metamorphosis. I outlined many of them elsewhere in this site and in the Question and Answer pages of my extensive site, but I haven't had time to write about them all. Every year, I try to reveal a bit more of my "secret formula" to increasing IQ, but with several books (all of which are constantly being updated), dozens of web sites (ditto), hundreds of inventions, and countless other things to do, I cannot do everything that I would like—or even ten percent of it, for that matter. If you wish to learn all facets of my program to boost intelligence and creativity, you can consult me. The more you pay, the more I will reveal. I hate to be so mercenary about this, but when I do just about anything—eat a meal, flip on a light switch, or even mow my yard—someone is profiting from it, because virtually no one is willing to work for free. Including you, right? (If you are willing to work free, please contact me immediately! I will reciprocate by giving you free tips and a ride or two on my Sea-doo! :-)

Update: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a neural imaging study (functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI) which proved that specialized mental exercises can boost cognitive skills and even change how the brain activates while comprehending written sentences, essentially triggering it to rewire itself. Interestingly, these gains in mental horsepower were not only maintained over the course of a year but actually became stronger and more solidified, thus further substantiating my conviction that brainpower can be improved.

Update: Brain Scans Support Findings That IQ Can Rise or Fall Significantly During Adolescence (also see Verbal and non-verbal intelligence changes in the teenage brain).

Update: Physical exercise is vital to intelligence: “Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.


  1. A Novel Look at How Stories May Change the Brain based on Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain
    Comment: In the 1970s, I serendipitously discovered that reading can indeed change the brain. I used that effect and a related one to boost my IQ, enabling me to go from dunce to doctor.
  2. Your brain is fine-tuning its wiring throughout your life
    Summary: “The white matter microstructure, the communication pathways of the brain, continues to develop/mature as one ages. Studies link age-related differences in white matter microstructure to specific cognitive abilities in childhood and adulthood.”
  3. New knowledge about human brain's plasticity
  4. Our Amazingly Plastic Brains
  5. New ideas change your brain cells, research shows
  6. How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning
  7. Curiosity is critical to academic performance
  8. Conscientious people are more likely to have higher GPAs
  9. SAT Reading Scores Are the Lowest They've Been in 40 Years

Back to the main Question & Answer page