Is it Possible to ‘Grow Your Intelligence’?

Posted on: June 1st, 2019 by Pat Mesiti No Comments

You know I am a believer in self-improvement. I believe that we all have the capacity to grow and learn regardless of how old we are. You can always teach an old dog like me new tricks! Every single one of us is a work in progress. If you want to be a beautiful work of art you need to put the work in, you need to keep on improving – keep on learning and studying and exposing yourself to new experiences so you can grow. That is my philosophy and this week I found yet another piece of evidence that endorses my world outlook.

Researchers have just discovered that our brain can grow new brain cells regardless of how old we are. Scientists once thought that after adolescence, people did not grow brand new brain cells and they were stuck with the ‘grey matter’ they had but we do grow new brain cells! New research has shown that neurogenesis – the formation of new brain neurons – can occur your whole life long.

Our brains keep growing even in our nineties

The very latest study from the University of Illinois in Chicago found that brain cells can grow, even if we are aged in our nineties. The study was published last week in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The researchers looked at the post-mortem brains of people aged 79-99. They looked for two types of brain cells neuroblasts (stem cells that would one day give rise to neurons), and immature neurons. People who had no signs of dementia had lots of both kinds of new cells in their brains.

Prior to death, these older people also underwent testing to look at their functioning and comprehension. The brains of people who scored well on tests had high levels of new brain cells. Basically people who grow more lots of new brain cells have sharper minds. The next question scientists want to answer is how do we get our bodies to grow more brain cells.

Keep using your new brain cells!

I am less focussed on that. I am more encouraged to know that our brain keeps growing new brain cells over the course of our whole life, so get out there and start using your new cells. Enrol in a course, learn a language, take up painting, learn a musical instrument, study art. Live a big life full of passion and love!

Another thing I recently learnt about intelligence is that we have good days and bad days. Another research study has found that our intelligence levels fluctuate over time – meaning we do have dumb days and smart days! So if you think you’re not smart enough to learn a language then you might be smart enough next week, because your intelligence levels change with time!

Our intelligence goes up and down

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development administered a wide range of cognitive tests to 101 young adults on 100 occasions over the course of six months. They found that each person had a level of intelligence but it did go up and down over the six months

I would like to see more research in this area. What happens when we look at intelligence over years? How do major life events impact on our intelligence?

Another scientist looking at changing intelligence, Dr Rogier Kievit, from Cambridge University, said that intelligence fluctuations can be a positive sign that a person is trying different ways to solve a problem, whereas for others fluctuations can mean they are floundering. That means we sometimes find our way – we can get smarter, but we can also get lost and sometimes become dumber.

Choose to be intelligent

Again people, I say this is all down to you! Keep persevering – choose to grow smarter!

This research also indicates that if we want to fully understand a person’s intellectual potential we must look at their intelligence over time. Remember some very gifted people didn’t discover their gifts until they were older. Annie Proulx, the author of the best-seller The Shipping News, only published her first book when she was 57. Again I say people grow new brain cells, people’s intelligence goes up and down, people have endless potential – regardless of their age!

Maybe we need to design new ways to help people boast their intelligence levels – I think self-education is a good first start! Get to the library and borrow books. Watch documentaries on TV, not bad soap operas. Go to exhibitions, have the courage to talk to new people. Be open to life and new experiences.

Being academic does not equal intelligence

Intelligence is not just about being good at school. Intelligence is defined by our motivations and our dreams, our personality and our life experiences and our long-term goals. I believe that being passionate helps our intelligence to grow. People do not really care what their IQ score is, but they want to maximise their own unique set of abilities to serve others and achieve their own life-long dreams.

Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about intelligence in terms of being good at maths or science or English, and instead think about intelligence as the individual’s ability to fulfil their potential and live a wonderful life.

Maybe true intelligence is just the ability to be your best!


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Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.


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