Ways to Improve Human Intelligence

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
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This briefing is intended to pull into one convenient, single frame of reference a body of key information which currently is scattered across a great many different contexts.

Until recently, even the possibility of any such information existing was, for essentially political reasons and funding reasons, denied by most of our institutions, together with most of our educators and psychologists, so that such findings as were made in various contexts and circumstances never got discussed across a broader context.

Now that it is evident that the brain, and one’s intelligence, are highly changeable and that a wide variety of conditions, arrangements and techniques may be employed to improve both brain functioning and intelligence to even a profound degree, we need to make a start on getting a lot of this key information organized to where you and other inquirers can more readily get at it, understand it, and use it.

It is our intention here to revisit, and evolve, this briefing into a kind of directory as more information becomes available and/or as time and opportunity let us publish in and around various of the points below.

With some of those points there is already a fair amount of published information we have referred to. As an example, with the first topic below, ImageStreaming, if one goes to the original reference given, then clicks through to each of the linked articles cited, one has not only directions for how to ImageStream and a description of what that phenomenon is, but an entire curriculum on that topic and context. Researchers have all the information they need to re-create that phenomenon in their own lives, or even in their own laboratories and classrooms for consistent study and formal measurement.

The fourth topic on the list, of repairing or enriching various sequential stages of human development, on the other hand, has little published literature currently available to refer to, despite that being the focus of several of this writer’s earliest main works. There we need both to revive out-of-print works and to publish information newly developed since the flow-with-feedback model came into fuller focus.

So this briefing is the nucleus of a unified frame to which we will be returning and adding from time to time to update its service as an ongoing annotated directory. Since many of the referents are likely to be initially unfamiliar to the reader, this briefing may not be as easy a read as we hope most of our other writings are, but we hope that lack is made up for by the sheer convenience of having so much of so vital a topic brought into one comprehensive frame of reference and set of concepts.

Listed below are the strongest general methods I know of for improving the brain and intelligence, in descending approximate order of priority. Click any item in the Menu for detailed discussion.

Menu of Methods

  1. Image Streaming
    and problem-solving involving such imagery work.
  2. Held-breath underwater swimming
    foremost among a family of techniques for improving circulation to the brain.
  3. Improvitaping and improv generally
    on the rapid-perceptive, flow-with-feedback principle.
  4. An aggregate of sensori-motor exercises structured around a sequence of neuro-developmental stages
  5. Rapid expressive flow-with-feedback in the modern Socratic and “Windtunnel” sense — this may be considered an extension of #3 but may also be considered on its own as an approach and system. See Feeding the Loop.
  6. Intense enrichment with reading, games, puzzles, problem-solving, debate, etc.
  7. Developing vocabulary and language skills.
  8. Developing speed, accuracy and complexity of sensory and sensori-motor response to stimuli which require varying degrees of interpolation.
  9. Removing stress, toxins, other “noise” from the system
    as per the instructions in the two articles, Winsights No. 28 and Winsights No. 29.
  10. Improving coordination of the eyes
    and/or of other accessible regions of the body through which must travel aspects of brain function exterior to the brain.

Various combinations of these may be more productive — for example, #1 and #4 may be combined nicely to Build Your Ability to Understand Everything (Winsights No. 44). Various imagery and/or sensori-motor exercises might be pursued in conjunction with #2 and/or with the aspect of #2 boosting circulation to the brain from the (land-based) Gravity Position. (Instructions for the Gravity Position are given in the book, Beyond O.K.)

Quick Interjection

Let me precede the following brief discussion of these with a repeat of one important strong suggestion we’ve stated elsewhere as well — an invitation to Google Search on the words, “Brain Plasticity.”

That term, “Brain Plasticity,” refers to the tendency of the physical brain, physical seat of our intelligence, to change its circuitry, change its structure, change its size, its shape, its very mass, in response to, and in order to better handle, the levels and kinds of information it has had to deal with over the previous year or so.

Note how many scientific studies there are of the phenomenon, or of aspects of it. Dip in and sample a few. All the different environmental factors, leading through plasticity to heighten the brain’s abilities to cope with levels and types of information, can reasonably be described as techniques for increasing intelligence, even if, for political and funding reasons, none of the studies dares breathe the word, “intelligence,” or the “I.Q.” instruments used to measure it.

Of course, some techniques are more effective than others, hence the point of this annotated summary.

The 10 Main Types of Method for Improving Human Intelligence

1.  ImageStreaming, and problem-solving involving such imagery work

The Image Streaming process is taught in easy steps. You will find more than just instructions and a description here. Click through to and examine each linked article cited as you come to it, and that will give you an entire comprehensive curriculum on this key topic.

Most information processed in the human brain is handled in sectors of the brain whose main working language is sensory images and impressions, rather than word-concepts which focus the conscious 2% of the brain. Our attention is mainly on the conscious 2%; but most of our information, stored experience, associations, and, one may say, most of our “intelligence” and understanding are in the main regions of the brain. We have gotten out of practice in noticing and focusing attention on what is going on in the main regions of our brain. Little noticed, there is a curious phenomenon going on in every living human being, “in back of the mind” — an ongoing stream of sensory images and impressions reflexively responsive to current situations, from which useful understandings from the main part of our intelligence may be gleaned.

Fully as significant as this gaining of access to more of our knowledge and understanding is the building – with practice – of communications links between our formal focused verbal consciousness and the vast regions of brain and mental function which lie beyond where we ordinarily focus our conscious thoughts and perceptions.

An especially noteworthy form of this latter is Pole-Bridging in the brain: i.e., building bridges of communications between widely separate regions and functions of the brain. Since John Ertl’s brainwave analyzer device in the late 1950s and ’60s demonstrated a close correlation between intelligence and how rapidly a stimulus to one region of the brain involves other regions of the brain, it has been clear that tight, fast phase relationships between regions of the brain are highly crucial to effective mental functioning. How to improve those phase relationships? Bio-evolutionary pressures gave a survival premium to responding faster to external stimuli. Fast external senses often made the difference, whether in finding breakfast or in not becoming breakfast.

No such premium pertained to speed of internal sensory perceptions — oh, I think I may be getting a headache. If different brain functions are externally expressed in combination activities which must be coordinated — like the sight-reading and playing of music, for example — coordinating that activity from external feedback of the senses literally drives those separate regions of the brain into a tighter, faster relationship. ImageStreaming involves a cluster of widely separated brain functions, bridging between them and thus integrating better communications throughout much of the brain. See also more about Pole-Bridging theory, developed since the original publication of that theory in the book, The Einstein Factor.

By exercising and sometimes challenging one’s powers of description, ImageStreaming builds language skills, putting one “in the market,” so to speak, for new and more powerful vocabulary and usages. Since Lev Vygotsky (Thought and Language, 1962) and Basil Bernstein (“Social Class and Linguistic Development, A Theory of Social Learning,” in Education, Economy and Society, Floud and Anderson, editors, 1961), we’ve known of and appreciated a powerful link between how well one’s language works and how well one’s intelligence works. Also worth noting: — just about every living human being can learn and practice ImageStreaming and so readily avail themselves of a significant process which not only lends them considerable understanding but an increase in intelligence. Implications of this have yet to be addressed.

2.  Held-breath underwater swimming, foremost among a family of techniques for improving circulation to the brain.

Improving that circulation means improvement to the physical health, condition and functioning abilities of the brain. Not only are improved oxygen, nutrition and food energy of critical importance, but especially significant is the improved rate and osmotic slope with which toxic wastes are carried away from the brain.

In response to more CO2 in the bloodstream, the circulatory system opens wider, notably the Carotid arteries which feed circulation to the physical brain.

An even stronger opening of those Carotid arteries, and of circulation to the other internal organs, results from being substantially under water.

The strongest way to open circulation to the physical brain, thereby improving its health and functioning, is by practice of held-breath underwater swimming. This practice also involves yet another effect on functioning intelligence — that of improving one’s “wind” or sustained breathing-span, which in turn improves one’s attention span. One naturally holds one’s breath when giving attention to a stimulus and shifts attention to some other stimulus while breathing.

If one has to breathe too soon before the end of reading or hearing a sentence, that breaks up the meaning. If one’s attention is dragged away before one can notice the relationships between one stimulus and another, or between one object and another, or one situation and another, or between one factor and another, one is unable to bring human level thought to that context. One may easily demonstrate this effect to one’s own satisfaction by engaging in some strongly aerobic activity, then engaging in some closely demanding task or trying to read before one’s breathing settles back down into a longer rhythm.See more on these effects in the online book, Two GUARANTEED Ways to Profoundly Improve Your Intelligence, with further commentary in Winsights No. 61, “Breathing and Personality Traits”, and Winsights No. 77, “Did You Know?”

3.  Improvitaping and improv generally, on the rapid-perceptive, flow-with-feedback principle.

The specific type of improvisation known as Improvitaping, involving together many sorts of music-related functions throughout almost the entire brain, is self-taught in the instructions in Winsights No. 13, with further commentary in Winsights No. 39, “Another Brain-Boost through Music”.

The significance of the rapid-flow-with-feedback aspects of Improv generally, and of Improvitaping in particular, is apparent in the article, Feeding the Loop. This affords us a very conveniently focused and powerful way to seize on the principle — expressed variously by educational and/or neurophysiological pioneers John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Omar K. Moore, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, and Marion Diamond — that not only learning but sheer physical brain growth and development mainly result from where we are taking back in, a portion of what we’ve been putting out — feedback not only from the environment but, more important, from ourselves and our own actions.

 4.  An aggregate of sensori-motor exercises structured around a sequence of neuro-developmental stages.

These are mostly in our out-of-print book, How To Increase Your Intelligence. Several of these sensori-motor techniques for increasing intelligence are contained, however, in our audio course, Brain Boosters.

Based on the same principle of distinct successive stages of development, an imagery-based process rather than a sensori-motor action is provided online in Winsights No. 44, “Build Your Ability to Understand Everything!” Many different programs have much the same model of human development through a sequence of stages, but appear unaware that other programs use much the same model. The earliest stages are limited in what the organism can do, but repetition of experience in those earlier stages encodes experience into higher orders of functioning, which enable the organism to do more and experience more. These in turn encode into yet higher levels of functioning, encompassing still more. Damage or limitations down the line spell trouble up the line; repairs down the line can build into repairs at each higher stage; enrichments down the line can extend into enrichments at each higher stage.

Most of the various programs of sensori-motor activities and practices can be regarded as ways to re-work the subroutines of the brain in order to better support the brain’s higher functions.

The concept of using sensori-motor patterns from earlier stages of development, to enrich or to repair current higher-functioning levels, was initiated by physician Temple Fay, inventor of cryogenic surgery. That concept, and most of the patterns and techniques to emerge in this context, were developed by physical therapist Glenn Doman, in a controversial but substantial program conducted since around 1960 by The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, based in Philadelphia. A number of brain-injury clinics around the world have copied their methods, controversies notwithstanding. Of note in our focus here is the work to enrich normal children, being pioneered by the Evan Thomas Institute.

5. Rapid expressive flow-with-feedback in the modern Socratic and “Windtunnel” sense

This may be considered an extension of #3 but may also be considered on its own as an approach and system.

See Feeding the Loop. High-speed, high-detail computer games with immediate ongoing reinforcement are one approach. Another is such problem-solving and understanding-seeking activities as Windtunnel and Freenoting.

Getting everyone in even the largest groups intensely involved in Socratic learning or problem-solving processes, such as via Dynamic Format, represents yet another fundamentally distinct way to implement this approach. (See especially the book, Dynamic Teaching.)

6.  Intense enrichment with reading, games, puzzles, problem-solving, debate, etc.

Such stimuli and such practices have been traditionally and widely followed for a long time, and have some validity and effect. However, as so well demonstrated by neurophysiologist Marion Diamond, stimulus by itself is of little value; it’s feedback upon your own actions that mainly develops the brain, the nervous system,, and one’s behavioral repertoire. (See again discussion of this point in Feeding the Loop.

7.  Developing vocabulary and language skills

Lev Vygotsky’s famous experiment with young children trying to draw butterfly wings (Thought and Language, 1962, op.cit.), illustrates just how basic to our perceptions are our language and word-concepts.

Basil Bernstein demonstrated that the working quality of one’s language affects not only one’s perception but the working quality of one’s thinking, and relates even more significantly to one’s readiness to use reason and evidence of the senses instead of relying on someone else’s authority as to what’s what and what’s right or wrong (“Social Class and Linguistic Development, A Theory of Social Learning,” in Education, Economy and Society, Floud and Anderson, editors, 1961, op.cit.).

8. Developing speed, accuracy and complexity of sensory and sensori-motor response to stimuli which require varying degrees of interpolation

Speed of response is useful, accuracy even more so; both are readily trained by a variety of methods, in and out of athletics and via computer games. Accurate speed of response which involves complex inference or other mental processing, likewise trainable, seems even more valuable still. One example of how this can be implemented, thus far undeveloped, is described in Winsights No. 17, “Some New Methods”.

9.  Removing stress, toxins, other “noise” from the system

Instructions for removing stress, toxins, other “noise” from the system are given in the two articles on Calm-Breathing Patterns, Winsights No. 28 and No. 29. A very basic point of information science and theory is that signals stand out better against a quieter background. This applies not only to the difference in what you can hear in program content between a well-tuned radio station and one that is full of static. It applies also to any kind of perception or structure relative to material that doesn’t belong with the signal. Various forms of meditation have demonstrated improved IQ scores accompanying their practice due to the calming action of such meditation. The clarifications afforded by the Calm-Breathing Patterns are especially notable, though these have not yet been measured by IQ test.

10. Improving coordination of the eyes and/or of other accessible regions of the body through which must travel aspects of brain function exterior to the brain

How well and how smoothly one uses one’s eyes together, powerfully determines how well one is able to access and process different kinds of information inside one’s brain. Reflexive eye movements accompany various kinds of information retrieval, acquisition and processing. Inhibition of some of these movements in turn inhibits the associated information action. Disinhibition of those movements disinhibits the associated information action. The specialty and practice of these “developmental” or “behavioral” aspects have been an important feature of both optometry and opthamology since the late 1920s. One place from which to begin an inquiry is the Journal of Behavioral Optometry. See also our brief article, “Eye Tracks” (Winsights No. 71).

Various combinations of these may be even more productive — for example, #1 and #4, ImageStreaming and actions leveraged by the model of sequential stages of human development, may be combined nicely into a version of the procedure to “Build Your Ability to Understand Everything!” One key process combining visual and sensory imagery with sequential stages of both individual and species development is found in the audio course, Brain Boosters, mentioned earlier. Various imagery and/or sensori-motor exercises might be pursued in conjunction with #2 and/or with the aspect of #2 boosting circulation to the brain from the (land-based) Gravity Position. The circulatory system responds both to attention and to sensory imagery. Feeling warmth through images of feeling appears to be considerably stronger in its effects than visualizing light and warmth, though of course combining these may lead to greater warming than either visualization or sensualization separately.

This has been a summary of a few of the main techniques for increasing human intelligence. Techniques for this, in turn, are part of a much broader topic which includes whether one should do so, how best may one apply such techniques to get the best results, issues in validation, measurement and testing; the politics which corrupted science in this topic, and much else. We hope to get a new edition of How To Increase Your Intelligence prepared by the end of 2009; meanwhile, hopefully, this summary will be helpful to some who have been pursuing various aspects of this topic for awhile. From time to time we will revisit and update this briefing, so that it may better fulfill its intended purpose as a reference point and directory for a topic profoundly important to human well-being.

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