“You Can Grow Your Intelligence”
New Research Shows the Brain Can Be Developed Like a Muscle , December 2008 Many people think of the brain as a mystery. They don't know much about intelligence and how it works. When they do think about what intelligence is, many people believe that a person is born either smart, average, or dumb — and stays that way for life.
But new research shows that the brain is more like a muscle — it changes and gets stronger when you use it. And scientists have been able to show just how the brain grows and gets stronger when you learn.
Everyone knows that when you lift weights, your muscles get bigger and you get stronger. A person who can't lift 20 pounds when they start exercising can get strong enough to lift 100 pounds after working out for a long time. That's because the muscles become larger and stronger with exercise. And when you stop exercising, the muscles shrink and you get weaker. That's why people say "Use it or lose it!
But most people don't know that when they practice and learn new things, parts of their brain change and get larger a lot like muscles do when they exercise.
Inside the cortex of the brain are billions of tiny nerve cells, called neurons. The nerve cells have branches connecting them to other cells in a complicated network. Communication between these brain cells is what allows us to think and solve problems.
When you learn new things, these tiny connections in the brain actually multiply and get stronger. The more that you challenge your mind to learn, the more your brain cells grow. Then, things that you once found very hard or even impossible to do — like speaking a foreign language or doing algebra — seem to become easy. The result is a stronger, smarter brain.
How Do We Know the Brain Can Grow Stronger?
Scientists started thinking that the human brain could develop and change when they studied animals' brains. They found out that animals who lived in a...