Hi, thanks for the question. There are many potential ways to improve
cognitive ability, many of which have been scientifically studied.
Below I have outlned some of the main methods in the web literature.
A Stimulating Environment:
"So could continued exposure to enriched environments prolong an
increase in intelligence, or even make it permanent? Many researchers
and psychologists believe that it is a possibility. Neurological
studies have shown that when exposed to a stimulating environment,
neurons continue to grow, expand, and synapse, whereas without the
stimulating environment they do not develop as fully since they
receive only minimal stimulation. Furthermore, synapses are believed
to be stronger if they are stimulated more frequently, suggesting that
environments rich in variety and activity may help cognitive function
throughout someone's lifetime."
The Mozart Effect (not just for children):
"A study that has also received much support is the Mozart Effect.
Researchers showed that university students who listened to Mozart's
Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major before taking a spatial-temporal
reasoning test performed significantly better than the control
subjects. However, the effect tended to last only about fifteen
minutes, and only with this specific piece of music which is known for
"Music educators have always believed that a child?s cognitive,
motivational, and communication skills are more highly developed when
exposed to music training. Now, study after study proves that music
instruction is essential to children?s overall education because it
improves their academic performance. The positive effects of music
education are finally being recognized by science, verifying what
music teachers have always suspected... At every age, exposure to
music training effects academic performance."
"The results of these studies have been applied to the general effects
of mental exercise. It is believed that mental exercise, such as
puzzles, reading, learning languages, and playing musical instruments,
are key to maintaining and improving cognitive ability in both
children and adults."
A Heathy Lifestyle:
"Studies have also shown that a healthy lifestyle is essential to make
optimal use of your intellectual ability. A proper diet is essential,
and it is well known that malnutrition during childhood development
has negative effects on intelligence since the brain requires many
nutrients to function properly on a daily basis. Physical activity
also appears to contribute to intelligence, increasing memory
retention, improving some types of problem-solving ability, and
helping relieve stress. Stress has been shown to negatively effect
learning and memory."
<<According to Dr. Irvine Mason, Diplomate, American Board of
Psychiatry and Neurology, ?It is difficult for many to understand how
a physical exercise program can improve reading, writing,
comprehension and attention ability. My initial skepticism was
replaced with excitement after a careful review of the program,
research and user reports. With one in six school children diagnosed
with a learning disability and probably an equal number that fall
through the cracks, widespread use of a non-medical program such as
this will have a significant impact on not only the children and
families involved, but society as well.? >>
"How is the program used and what does it accomplish? The program
entails a child watching a video recording which takes him or her
through tasks such as throwing beanbags, tossing balls at a bounce
back target and tapping a hanging ball, while standing on a unique
balance board. The simple activities take about 15 minutes to
complete. For maximum benefit they should be performed twice daily.
The program comes complete with all equipment needed and a step-by
step instruction manual. Combinations of various activities aim to
strengthen most all areas involved with learning and performance. We
use many of our senses together when we learn. Thus, each individual
follows the same program. However, each person will progress to more
challenging levels at different rates. The program is uniquely
designed to allow for this. As one reaches higher levels of balance
during activity, brain reaction time speeds up, which has a positive
effect on attention difficulties. Underlying foundational structures
involved in learning get progressively stronger thereby improving
cognitive ability and performance such as reading, writing and
comprehension. Moreover, it is fun to use, making it easier for
children to stay committed. "
"The results of a trio of studies presented at 2001 Society for
Neuroscience conference suggest that regular exercise can improve
cognitive function and increase levels of substances in the brain
responsible for maintaining the health of neurons. In a study at Nihon
Fukushi University in Aichi, Japan, seven healthy student volunteers
jogged for thirty minutes a day, three times a week, for a period of
twelve weeks. The subjects took a series of cognitive tests at three
different times during the study period: at the start of the study, at
six weeks and at 12 weeks. Additionally, seven non-jogging subjects
took the same cognitive tests as a comparison control group. The three
tests, conducted and scored on computers, measured working memory. By
the end of the twelfth week of the study, the jogging subjects scored
nearly 30 percent higher than the sedentary subjects."
Getting Enough Sleep:
"Psychologists have found that reduced sleep leads to an increase in
irritability and a decrease in concentration. It can also cause
restless nights for families and staff. If a routine of proper nights
sleep can be established then the decrease in irritability can reflect
in an improvement in mood and possible behavioral difficulties . The
increased concentration can have a positive effect towards improving
cognitive ability ."
Interactive Metronome Therapy
"Interactive Metronome (IM) program is a personal computer-based
training technology designed to improve the processing skills vital to
motor planning, sequencing and attention. The IM combines the
principles of the traditional music metronome with computer
technology. Hand and foot sensors relay information about the user's
performance to the computer during training. Headphones provide
immediate computer generated auditory feedback to the user on
Gains that have been noted with use of this program include improved
attention and mental clarity, improved motor sequencing and planning,
smoother gait, improve academic performance, improved language skills,
rapid acquisition of new athletic skills and decreased anxiety."
There is much debate regarding whether these "smart drugs" are
effective or safe. However, many claim that the following drugs do
indeed increase cognitive ability. It should be noted, however, that
most of these drugs were developed for specific cases, such as
alzheimer's disease or dementia and not for use by the general public.
Some believe that their benefits surpass this limited use and should
be used by the general public to increase mental functioning. (note:
the following is excerpted from a prior answer on Google Answers:
"Adrafinil (Olmifon) Enhances vigilance, alertness, memory and
creativity. Adrafinil is totally unlike any other mental stimulant.
Increases sensitivity to external stimulation and the 'quality' of
presence without interfering with sleep patterns."
"Aniracetam is a member of the nootropic class of drugs, which have
possible cognition enhancing effects."
"The nootropic compound BMY-21502 improves spatial learning ability in
brain injured rats."
University of Pennsylvania: Smith Neurotrauma Lab
Centrophenoxine is an intelligence booster and also an effective
anti-aging therapy. It has been shown to cause improvements in various
aspects of memory function and a 30% increase in lifespan of
Hoboes: New Drugs That Make You Smart
"According to many reports, life span is lengthened, aging is slowed,
and quality of life is improved. Cognitive brain function improves and
intelligence increases. DHEA increases the number of neurons (brain
cells) and expands the network of neural connections."
"DMAE is the abbreviation for Dimethylaminoethanol. It is a precursor
of neural transmitters and it gets rid of old age pigments deposited
in brain cells. It improves nerve impulse transmission in the brain
and the function of brain cells when cleared of the brown pigment,
Lipofuchsin, that collects with old age."
"Hydergine has found to have a wide variety of cognitive enhancing
properties including increasing the blood flow to the brain,
increasing oxygen flow to the brain, acting as a free radical
scavenger in the brain. Hydergine reduces symptoms of tiredness, and
helps with the intake of new material in learning. Hydergine is known
to increase intelligence and recall."
In Home Health
"Melatonin has a lot more to it than scientists know today or are
willing to admit. This substance often appears in 'mystical'
literature (under other names, of course), and is ascribed as having
healing and rejuvenating qualities, as well as being able to increase
our level of intelligence."
"Chemically, oxiracetam is similar to piracetam, though stronger in
effect. It is one of the more commonly used smart drugs."
Phenylalanine is the most common of brain boosting amino acids; it
will help one to fight off stress and it may also elevate one's mood
and increase alertness."
Nootrope: Better Thinking Through Chemistry
"Piracetam or Nootropil has many different uses. It corrects memory
loss, improves concentration, increases mental activity, stabilizes
emotional behavior, protects the brain against free radical damage
such as from alcohol and drugs and enhances mental deficiency
regardless of age."
"Chemically related to piracetam, and has a similar effect in
improving the operations of certain brain neurotransmitters involed in
mind function. Pramiracetam is a more potent version of piracetam."
Z.L. Damen: Drug Descriptions
"Deprenyl is also noted to have antidepressant and aphrodisiac
effects, helping to improve sexual function and desire. Deprenyl
improves the availability of dopamine, and slows its age-related
decline by acting as a selective MAO-B inhibitor and even more
importantly, it helps maintain healthy brain cells, particularly in
the dopamine producing neuron area of the brain called the substantia
Z.L. Damen: Drug Descriptions
"Vinpocetin is a revolutionary, new medication for the prevention and
treatment of stroke, senile dementia and memory disturbances. Improves
impaired hearing, tinnitus and dizziness."
Google Search Strategy
"improving cognitive ability"
"enhancing cognitive ability"
"improving mental activity"
"enhancing mental activity"
Thanks again for the question. Please let me know if you need any clarification.
Clarification of Answer by
20 Aug 2004 22:14 PDT
Women's Health Weekly
December 13, 2001
HEADLINE: NEUROLOGY: Estrogen Gives Postmenopausal Women Better Memory Consistency
<<Postmenopausal women who take estrogen and young, college-age women
perform more consistently on memory tests compared with postmenopausal
women not taking the hormone, according to a new study by
investigators at Columbia University College of Physicians Surgeons.
The researchers, led by Dr. Domonick Wegesin, assistant professor of
neuropsychology (in neurology and in the Gertrude H. Sergievsky
Center), say their findings have both clinical and research
implications. Improvements in measures of consistency, they say, can
be added to the list of the benefits of estrogen therapy, which
already include decreased risk of Alzheimer disease, osteoporosis and
The results also may help neuroscientists localize areas in the brain
where estrogen and aging may impact function. Since the ability to
perform consistently has been associated with intact frontal lobe
function, the findings suggest estrogen may mediate changes in
cognitive abilities via the frontal lobe. Also, one's ability to
perform consistently decreases with age. Therefore, changes in
consistency with age may be related to age-related changes in frontal
Pain & Central Nervous System Week
May 12, 2001
HEADLINE: HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY: Designer Estrogen May Help
Cognitive Performance In Some Women
<<The designer estrogen drug raloxifene has been prescribed to
millions of postmenopausal women for osteoporosis, but its effects on
the aging brain are unclear.
Now a new study, led by a University of California, San Francisco
(UCSF), researcher, shows that although raloxifene does not affect the
cognitive performance of most women, it may help prevent decline among
women older than 70 and women whose cognitive performance is declining
regardless of age.>>
May 14, 2004
HEADLINE: ENDOCRINOLOGY: Sex steroids influence the effects DHEA has
on cognition in menopausal women
<<Sex steroids influence the effects DHEA has on cognition in menopausal women.
"Prior studies of the effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on
cognition have produced complex and inconsistent results. We
hypothesize that these results may arise, in part, because of DHEA's
metabolism into estrogens and androgens that produce opposing effects
on cognition. Our study administered 50 mg of oral DHEA daily for 4
weeks in a placebo-controlled crossover design to six postmenopausal
women," investigators in the United States report.
"We measured blood levels of androgens (total testosterone, free
testosterone, DHEA, DHEAS), estrogens (estradiol, estrone), and
cognitive performance on recognition memory, perceptual
identification, digit span memory, and visual attentional vigilance
under both drug and placebo conditions. Multiple regression models
incorporating the factors of age and body mass index (BMI) were used
to ascertain the relation between sex steroids and cognitive
performance," said E. Hirshman and colleagues, George Washington
University, Department of Psychology.
"Our results demonstrated that estrogens produced a positive effect on
recognition memory, while androgens produced a negative effect. This
pattern reversed in perceptual identification with estrogens producing
a negative effect and androgens producing a positive effect. In
addition, body mass index (BMI) produced a negative effect on digit
span memory, age produced a negative effect on perceptual
identification, and androgens produced a negative effect on visual
"These results help, in part, to explain DHEA's complex effects on
cognition. The diverse effects of sex steroids across tasks underscore
the importance of identifying the specific cognitive mechanisms
influenced by sex steroids and emphasizes that one should not expect
sex steroids to produce homogeneous effects across cognitive tasks,"
Hope this helps. Thanks again for your question.