The New Science of Building Brain Power

Jul 23, 2015

For over a century, IQ scores have been viewed by scientists as placing an upper limit on what a person can ever achieve: a cognitive glass ceiling, a number tattooed on the soul.

Shattering decades of that kind of dogma, scientists began publishing studies in 2008 showing that “fluid intelligence”—the ability to learn, solve novel problems, and get to the heart of things—can be increased through training. But is it all just hype?

This hour we'll look at the hot new field of intelligence research to reveal what researchers call a revolution in human intellectual abilities. We'll talk to Dan Hurley about his new book Smarter.

Hurley's insights include a mix of the old and new:

  • Do things you suck at: new, challenging activities of almost any kind strengthen the mind
  • Physical exercise also jogs the brain
  • Fish oil and other supplements may be harmful—but moderate alcohol can help
  • Music lessons at any age improve mental functioning
  • Transcranial direct-current stimulation is safe and effective (but not yet widely available)
  • Nicotine patches improve attention and focus with little to no addictive potential
  • Computerized “working memory” games can be highly effective
  • Mindfulness meditation helps even military personnel improve their concentration
  • Combining two, three, or more methods is the most effective approach

Join the conversation on Twitter, or on Facebook.


  • Dan Hurley - author, Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power


  • “Gne Gne,” Montefiori Cocktail
  • “Extreme Ways,” Moby
  • “I Want a New Drug,” Huey Lewis & The News
  • “Life in Technicolor,” Coldplay

Lori Mack and Jonathan McNicol contributed to this show, which has aired on three previous dates, most recently on December 30, 2014.