Self Help

Genius Within, The - David Adam

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 40 min read

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Here is a summary of the key points from the introduction to THE GENIUS WITHIN:

  • The book discusses brain science and intelligence, specifically how cognitive therapies and new techniques like drugs and brain stimulation can help access dormant or underutilized parts of the brain.

  • The author experienced severe OCD and received cognitive behavioral therapy that created new connections in his brain and gave him a “helicopter view” on his fears and risks.

  • Drugs and brain stimulation techniques are being explored to make the brain more receptive to therapy and enhancement, potentially helping more people with mental illness.

  • These techniques raise questions about cognitive enhancement in healthy people - could it boost skills like attention, memory, math abilities? Could it increase intelligence?

  • Intelligence is difficult to define but we recognize it, and debates about it divide people along scientific, educational and other lines. Genes play a role but IQ is an imperfect measure of the human spectrum of abilities. Differences in intelligence are used to judge and divide people.

  • The book aims to discuss these issues regarding new techniques, intelligence and the potential implications for society as the science progresses.

  • Savants are people who have low intelligence by typical measures but show exceptional abilities in a single cognitive domain, like math skills or perfect recall of books read. Their unusual skills are associated with autism but not the same.

  • It is hypothesized that savants can access brain functions that are not normally accessible to others. Their brain wiring and connections allow them to perform feats of mental dexterity by “unlocking” an extra level, perhaps as compensation for other mental damage or issues.

  • Some evidence for this comes from “acquired savants” - people who develop new skills like math, memory or art late in life, sometimes after brain trauma. Disease or head injuries can seemingly release unknown skills. This shows the brain’s potential for change and improvement.

  • Research aiming to understand and replicate effects like this could offer ways to safely and reliably boost cognitive functions beyond what’s currently possible. However, some are already experimenting with techniques like brain stimulation outside of research settings, before effects and safety are fully understood.

  • The book will explore scientific and ethical questions around cognitive enhancement, how intelligence is defined and measured, and how it can be improved. Changes to human cognition raise important issues that need consideration.

  • Andrew is part of a movement trying to enhance and improve the human brain through techniques like electrical brain stimulation. He invited the narrator to his flat to try DIY brain stimulation.

  • At Andrew’s flat, the narrator sees equipment like a converted football helmet loaded with electrodes that Andrew uses for self-stimulation. Andrew also has hobbies like martial arts.

  • Andrew attaches electrodes to the narrator’s head and uses a device to apply a small electric current for 20 minutes, claiming it will make the brain work better. The narrator feels alert but isn’t sure if it’s the stimulation or strong coffee.

  • Neuroenhancement is the next scientific revolution after genetics, physics, chemistry, etc. Some want to actively change and improve the brain, not just observe it. Countries like China are exploring methods to boost intelligence for economic gain. While improving the brain sounds far-fetched, some take the potential impact very seriously.

  • Our lives and opportunities are shaped by how well our brains perform at key moments. People seek ways to artificially boost intelligence for exams, interviews, first impressions, etc. which determine success or failure and the labels that stick with us.

  • The passage compares immutable mental abilities (intelligence) to mutable physical attributes. Intelligence is still widely seen as fixed, whereas physical performance can be improved through medicine, exercise, etc.

  • This fixed view of intelligence underpins societal structures like education, careers, and social class. It affects how people are judged and opportunities are allocated.

  • Advances in neuroscience now make it possible to potentially enhance cognitive abilities and intelligence through intervention. This raises ethical questions about how it may affect societies and ideas of normalcy.

  • The author attended a Mensa IQ test in order to get a baseline score before attempting cognitive enhancement. Mensa membership requires scoring in the top 2% on IQ tests.

  • Some candidates were passionate about joining Mensa for prestige or personal validation. The author’s main goal was to experiment with enhancement techniques rather than join the organization.

  • The Mensa entrance exams contained difficult verbal and nonverbal reasoning puzzles that tested problem-solving abilities under time pressure. The author struggled to complete some sections within the allotted time.

  • The passage discusses the origins of intelligence testing and the concept of cognitive enhancement. It focuses on the work of French psychologist Alfred Binet in the late 19th/early 20th century.

  • Binet was tasked by the French government to identify students struggling in the newly compulsory public school system. He believed psychologists, not psychiatrists, should handle this challenge.

  • Drawing on observations of his own daughters, Binet designed a test scale measuring abilities by age. Tests progressively increased in difficulty. A child’s performance was compared to typical ability for their age.

  • This allowed Binet to define “mental age” - a seven year old performing like an eight year old had a mental age of eight. This identified students below average who needed extra help.

  • Binet warned against over-interpretation and saw the test as one tool among many. He designed it to flag a quarter of each age group to allow for natural variation in abilities.

  • Binet’s work launched the field of intelligence testing and the debate between psychologists and psychiatrists about understanding and enhancing cognitive ability.

  • Alfred Binet developed the first intelligence test in the early 20th century to identify students who needed extra help in school. His test measured “mental age” based on a child’s performance on certain tasks compared to average children of that age. However, he emphasized it was just a snapshot on one day and not a permanent measure of ability.

  • Over time, his test and the concept of IQ became standardized and widely used without all the caveats Binet had included. Critics argue IQ tests reduce intelligence to a single number and don’t capture full ability, but supporters say they consistently correlate with life outcomes like education, job performance, health, and income.

  • The narrator joins Mensa after taking an IQ test but wants to improve his score through “cognitive enhancement.” He decides to wait a year to retake the test to avoid the retest effect of familiarity. This gives him time to research ways to reliably increase intelligence and IQ, but he finds defining and measuring intelligence is very complex with ongoing debates. His goal of using enhancement to game the IQ test may not be so straightforward.

  • The passage presents a thought experiment about 10 men and asks how many handshakes there would be total if they all shook hands with each other. It then provides the answer of 45 and explains the logic.

  • Defining intelligence has proven extremely difficult. When experts were asked in 1921 and again in 1986, they provided over a dozen different definitions that varied widely and sometimes opposed each other.

  • More recently, researchers compiled 70+ definitions and tried to distill them into the ability to achieve goals across environments. But precisely defining features of human intelligence has hindered the development of artificial intelligence.

  • Context and culture shape views of intelligence. Western cultures value speed and rationality while eastern cultures prefer depth of thought. Different societies see traits like speaking less or more as signs of greater versus lesser intelligence.

  • There is no objective, agreed upon definition of intelligence that accounts for its complexity. It remains a difficult concept to pin down.

The passage discusses early experiments into measuring intelligence conducted by Francis Galton and Charles Spearman in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Galton developed tests of sensory abilities like reaction time and color/weight discrimination. Though his results did not support his theories, he helped establish approaches to quantitatively studying intelligence.

Spearman built on Galton’s work, testing children’s senses and musical abilities. He tested students from a local village school and a higher-class preparatory school. His tests were informal by today’s standards, but provided early data on correlations between different cognitive abilities. The passage provides context on the challenges these pioneering researchers faced in scientifically studying the new concept of intelligence. It paints a picture of the primitive state of psychological testing and research methods at that early stage.

  • Francis Galton tried to establish a link between intelligence and performance through his anthropometric laboratory experiments, but Spearman succeeded where Galton failed.

  • Spearman devised a statistical method showing that the same students tended to perform well across different subjects like classics, French, etc. Conversely, those who struggled in one subject often struggled in others.

  • Spearman concluded there must be some general underlying cognitive capacity, which he called “general intelligence” or “g”, that explained performance across different tasks.

  • Spearman believed measuring this general intelligence could help make judgments about broader abilities and suitability for roles like commanding troops.

  • Spearman’s discovery of the positive manifold, where performance is correlated across tasks, is highly controversial but important. It suggests intelligence is not separate capacities but rather reflects an underlying general factor.

  • While g cannot be directly measured, IQ is often used as a proxy, which brings political and social baggage around the idea of fixed intelligence.

  • Beliefs about whether intelligence is fixed or can be improved through effort have real impacts on students’ motivation, persistence, and performance. Praise language can influence the development of these beliefs.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for mental disorders like OCD and depression sometimes provides benefits in fits and starts, with temporary ‘eureka moments’ of improvement for some patients. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is still used to treat severe depression, though it is extreme and unpopular.

  • Newer forms of mild electrical brain stimulation aim to specifically target brain regions thought to underlie disorders, with the goal of modulating activity levels to relieve symptoms. Early studies show potential for reducing symptoms of depression, schizophrenia and other disorders.

  • However, the field is still young and more research is needed. Some desperate individuals are experimenting on themselves without proper oversight or clinical trials. There are also concerns about neuroenhancement spreading beyond medical uses.

  • The passage draws a parallel between attempts to enhance athletic performance through doping and current efforts to enhance cognition through neuroscience techniques. Both represent mission creep from treatment to enhancement using what was originally developed for medical purposes. Strict regulation has not stopped this trend.

The main events that led him were:

  • He started taking an experimental drug in Alan Glynn’s novel The Dark Fields that increased his intellectual, creative and learning powers.

  • After finishing the book in a couple days, he embarked on a new lucrative career in finance by gaining a new ability to see patterns in large amounts of information from the drug.

  • He became extremely busy and productive, reading biographies, learning languages from books and tapes, playing chess online, calling into radio quizzes and more.

  • His transformation was driven by the drug enhancing his cognitive abilities and allowing him to learn and process information at a much higher level.

So in summary, taking the experimental cognitive enhancement drug is what mainly led to his upturn in fortunes and new highly productive and successful lifestyle. The drug’s effects on his mind is what propelled his changes.

  • Modafinil and other “smart drugs” are purported to improve focus, reaction times and reduce fatigue, making them appealing study aids for students. However, others argue their use provides an unfair advantage and should be considered cheating.

  • There are open questions about who should be allowed to use cognitive enhancement drugs and the potential peer pressure effects. Some argue equal access could promote fairness, while others are concerned about risks of coercion or changing accreditation standards.

  • Historically, methamphetamine was used by Japanese military in WWII to keep kamikaze pilots alert on long missions, raising ethical issues. Its recreational use by students later trying to gain academic advantages also prompted concerns.

  • Modafinil emerged in the 1970s as an alternative to stimulants like amphetamines for sleep disorders. Off-label use has since expanded widely due to purported cognitive benefits, though legality varies by location.

  • Surveys suggest many students, surgeons and scientists now use modafinil or similar drugs off-label in an attempt to gain cognitive advantages, despite health risks. However, regulation and definitions of “cheating” remain ambiguous and debated.

  • Many medicines bought online are counterfeit, substandard or adulterated, posing health risks as there is no guarantee of what is actually in the products.

  • The counterfeit drug market is large and has killed people through tainted or ineffective drugs. Verifying genuine drugs online is difficult and expensive.

  • The author wanted to verify smart drugs bought online were genuine, so had them tested by a university lab. Mass spectrometry and X-ray diffraction testing confirmed the modafinil pills were genuine.

  • On taking modafinil, the author felt more focused, motivated and able to concentrate for long periods while writing. Side effects included impulsiveness.

  • The author took modafinil to test its effects while playing regular Tuesday night squash matches against a friend. Though technically doping, it could help their performance and decision making under pressure.

  • During the match, the author’s game improved markedly while on modafinil, winning the first game through good decisions. They executed an unexpected tricky shot that surprised both players.

The narrator recounts playing a competitive squash match against his friend Mike. The narrator wins the first two games, feeling very focused and making no mistakes. However, his strong play then disappears and Mike comes back to win the match 3-2.

After the match, the narrator reflects on how he had been contemplating taking the stimulant modafinil before the match to improve his concentration and performance. He considers past bans on other stimulants like caffeine in sports. He discusses research on modafinil suggesting it can enhance cognitive abilities beyond just waking people up.

However, the narrator also notes potential side effects and unknown long-term impacts of modafinil. In the end, he decides to experiment more with timing the drug, still interested in its possible benefits for his squash game and mental focus.

  • In the late 19th century, scientists formed “mutual autopsy societies” where members pledged to donate their brains to science after death. This included Walt Whitman.

  • They believed intelligence was related to brain size, with larger brains indicating higher intelligence. They measured brain size by filling craniums with water or seeds after removing brains.

  • In the US, the “Brain Club” and “American Anthropometric Society” formed to compare brains of notable members after death. They published “league tables” linking occupation and achievement to brain weight.

  • They believed criminals had smaller brains than professionals/achievers. One criminal brain examined was that of Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated President McKinley. However, his brain appeared normal.

  • The goal was to link brain size to intelligence and prove racial superiority, with assertions that non-white races had smaller brain sizes than whites. However, methods were limited since they did not study people in life.

  • Edward Anthony Spitzka, a medical student, concluded that assassin Leon Czolgosz was socially and morally diseased but not mentally ill after performing his autopsy. He argued that the “wild beast” exists within all people and insanity is not always needed to explain violence.

  • Spitzka likely got the job cutting open Czolgosz due to his father’s connections in neurology. His father Edward Charles Spitzka had testified that another presidential assassin was insane.

  • Both Spitzkas were members of the US Brain Club, which collected and studied brains of notable people. When the younger Spitzka took over, he found the stored brains in poor condition.

  • Through his brain studies, Spitzka Junior aimed to understand what made great minds capable of intellectual achievements. However, early brain studies were crude and biased, massaging data to fit preconceptions about intelligence.

  • Later neuroscientific studies confirmed a link between brain size/head circumference and intelligence, showing the early researchers were on to something, even if their methods were flawed. Brain scans today aim to better understand the structural bases of traits like intelligence.

  • Einstein’s brain was secretly removed and studied after his death against his wishes. Later analyses found some unusual features but his brain weight was average. Intelligence is not localized to any single brain structure.

  • Brain scans can identify which brain regions are involved in different cognitive functions like memory, language, etc. However, scans cannot explain individual differences in intelligence.

  • There are two main types of brain tissue - grey matter which does most processing, and white matter which connects grey matter regions. More grey and white matter generally correlates with higher intelligence.

  • Specific skills may be linked to brain structures, like taxi drivers having more hippocampus grey matter due to extensive spatial memory use. However, this does not imply causation - a bigger hippocampus does not guarantee those skills.

  • General intelligence seems to come from effective coordination between brain regions, particularly the parieto-frontal integration theory (P-FIT) circuit involving parietal and prefrontal regions.

  • Faster brain responses and more efficient neural processing correlate with higher intelligence. The P300 response is linked to intelligence, with faster/more complex responses in smarter individuals.

  • Brain activity patterns are highly personalized and can serve as neuronal fingerprints to identify individuals. These fingerprints also correlate with intelligence levels.

  • Genetics strongly influence brain wiring and circuitry underlying intelligence, similar to physical traits, though environment still plays a role. Brain connectivity patterns accurately predict intelligence based on cognitive task brain scans.

  • The passage describes the controversial history of testing and research into the genetics of human intelligence. Early IQ tests in the US military had questionable validity but contributed to fears of “feeble-mindedness”.

  • Those identified as low intelligence, often due to low education rather than ability, were seen as genetically problematic. Some researchers advocated preventing them from reproducing.

  • Testing was later expanded to schools to identify children requiring separation or special education. But it has dark echoes of eugenics and limiting reproduction of those deemed less intelligent.

  • The story outlines lingering stigma around research on intelligence and genetics. A request to study gifted children’s DNA triggered concerns over past abuses like supporting eugenics arguments.

  • It includes an urban legend about a shadowy figure getting into a woman’s car after she stops to check a bizarre clown doll left in the road, highlighting the enduring fascination and unease around psychiatric institutions of the past.

  • The passage describes Cranage Hall, a former psychiatric hospital in Cheshire, UK. It was originally used as an asylum to house people deemed “unfit” by the government and unable to have children.

  • Many such asylums started as prisons during the early 20th century, as eugenics policies aimed to control who could breed. Flawed IQ tests fueled worries about “feeble-mindedness” in the population.

  • A tunnel from Cranage Hall’s cellar led to a nearby village, allowing secret transport of patients to avoid stigma. The history was scrubbed during renovations.

  • Eugenics based on faulty science appealed due to societal concerns after WWI, including immigration. The UK passed laws segregating the “feeble-minded” in places like Cranage Hall rather than sterilizing them.

  • People could be diagnosed after brief examinations and sent away, stripping them from families and opportunities. Many were wrongly diagnosed, sometimes due to malice. Former inmates later spoke of being misdiagnosed.

  • The book examines how tens of thousands of people were wrongly classified as “feeble-minded” and locked up by the British government for decades. An estimated 40,000 people were wrongly institutionalized.

  • These people had little to no voice to advocate for themselves, as they were not allowed to have children by force of the state. Their families have long since passed away.

  • Other countries like Nazi Germany and the US also instituted eugenic policies like sterilization to prevent the “feeble-minded” from breeding. Over 42,000 people were sterilized in the US.

  • Eugenic ideologies promoted the idea that intelligence was hereditary and certain groups like immigrants or minorities posed a threat to the genetic stock. IQ tests were used to legitimize these scientific racism views.

  • To this day, the genetics of intelligence and differences in IQ scores between racial groups remain controversial topics, with no consensus on the role of nature vs nurture. Bringing race into intelligence research attracts much criticism.

  • Certain fringe researchers promoted ideas linking race to intelligence or group superiority, but their work is not considered objective or scientific by most experts in the field today.

Based on the provided context, the following key points can be summarized:

  • In the late 19th/early 20th century, electricity was widely used as a medical treatment, including for mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia. Electrotherapy peaked during WWI to treat shell shock.

  • Some early accounts suggested electricity could enhance mental performance beyond just treating symptoms. However, the scientific basis was unclear.

  • Mainstream science rediscovered electrical brain stimulation in 1999 to study working memory and motor learning. Experiments were done on volunteers and researchers’ own families due to lack of participants.

  • Recent military-funded research in New Mexico found applying low-current electricity to specific areas of the brain helped volunteers learn to spot concealed threats in images twice as fast. The effects lasted over an hour, suggesting stimulation induced lasting brain changes.

  • While electrical brain stimulation shows promise, there is also hype around its potential that scientists dislike. The legacy of eugenics also makes research on intelligence enhancement controversial.

  • Brain stimulation research aims to show potential applications like improved learning, skills, cognition, and more, but scientists stress the work is preliminary.

  • Scientists need to promote potential benefits to secure funding, while avoiding hype around when results could be realized.

  • Techniques like transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) show promise for applications like staying awake, enhancing skills, and cognition.

  • Some individuals engage in do-it-yourself (DIY) brain stimulation outside of research settings, aiming to achieve claimed effects but without regulation.

  • Mainstream scientists disapprove of risks from DIY use but are interested in hackers’ experimentation given the field’s niche status.

  • Electric current from brain stimulation electrodes on the skin penetrates only about an inch into the brain, enough to impact higher functions but not all regions.

  • Current indirectly makes brain regions under electrodes more or less excitable, potentially allowing activation or suppression of activity.

  • Researchers are exploring alternative penetration methods like lasers and magnets to directly stimulate deeper brain regions.

  • Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction, which led him to invent the electric motor. His lectures at the Royal Institution drew such large crowds that the first one-way street in London was created to manage traffic.

  • Faraday’s work also drew the interest of Franz Mesmer, an early proponent of hypnotism who believed disease was caused by imbalances in the body’s “animal magnetism.” Mesmer claimed he could cure people using magnets.

  • Mesmer would hypnotize many people at once around a magnetic device called a “baquet.” This led to strange reactions in patients like convulsions. It also seemed to influence women patients in particular.

  • Later practitioners found patients could be put into trance-like states under hypnosis and be suggestion susceptible. This disproved Mesmer’s magnetic theories.

  • In 2008, autistic man John Elder Robison underwent transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses magnets to induce electric currents in the brain. To his surprise, it gave him the ability to perceive and understand emotion from voices and faces for the first time.

  • The stimulation seemed to “unlock” or activate dormant parts of his brain related to social-emotional processing. However, it also caused him difficulty regulating emotion. The long-term effects were unknown, but it gave hope to others with autism.

  • While general intelligence (g) is important, it is not the only factor that determines one’s intelligence. There are also specific mental abilities (s factors) that can vary between tasks.

  • Intelligence emerges from a hierarchy of diverse mental abilities, not just g alone. This suggests there are multiple ways cognitive enhancement could be achieved, such as targeting g directly or improving specific s factors.

  • Two commonly discussed types of cognitive ability are crystallized intelligence (acquired knowledge and skills) and fluid intelligence (ability to reason and solve problems). Most people have correlated levels of these.

  • Some expand intelligence architectures to include spatial awareness and differences between males and females.

  • Howard Gardner argued against the dominance of g, proposing multiple “intelligences” like musical, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic that each person has varying levels of. This challenges the view of one overarching general intelligence.

So in summary, the passage discusses moving beyond just viewing intelligence as a single general factor g, and acknowledges there may be multiple pathways and dimensions to cognitive abilities.

  • Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences suggests that things like eye coordination, naturalistic intelligence, interpersonal skills should each be considered intelligences. However, research shows these various intelligences are often correlated - people who excel in one area tend to excel in others as well.

  • The theory is popular because it suggests everyone has some intelligence or strength, making it an appealing egalitarian view. But scientifically, evidence for truly independent intelligences is limited.

  • Many subsequent theories have proposed additional “intelligences” like emotional intelligence, but these often lack strong evidence and seem aimed more at commercial opportunities than scientific rigor.

  • Emotional intelligence in particular is touted as more important than IQ, but research shows IQ significantly predicts life outcomes and is correlated with other mental abilities. The data does not support emotional intelligence as truly independent from or more powerful than IQ.

  • Even skills like bodily-kinesthetic abilities used in sports correlate with broader mental performance. High-level athletes demonstrate a variety of cognitive skills, even if not always recognized as “intelligence.” Overall abilities tend to cluster together across domains.

  • Scientists tested elite soccer players in Sweden on tests of executive function like mental flexibility, multi-tasking, working memory, etc. They found soccer players significantly outperformed average people on these tests.

  • Their performance on the cognitive tests seemed to predict future on-field success, suggesting intelligence benefits athletic performance.

  • The brain limits exertion through the “central governor” mechanism to protect the body. Neuroenhancement aims to raise this limit and allow pushing past physical and mental fatigue barriers.

  • Some studies found transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the motor cortex increased exercise performance in trained and recreational cyclists. This suggests neuroenhancement could enhance athletic abilities.

  • The author purchased a do-it-yourself tDCS device cheaply online to attempt enhancing their own physical performance before re-taking an intelligence test. However, proper electrode placement and current levels are difficult without guidance.

So in summary, evidence suggests intelligence and executive functions benefit sports, and neuroenhancement through non-invasive brain stimulation may help exceed physical and mental limits set by the brain during exertion. But self-administered enhancement carries risks without professional guidance and equipment.

  • So far, brain stimulator manufacturers have been able to avoid regulation. Many scientists have mapped brain regions associated with various cognitive functions using brain scanners.

  • A new generation is now trying to stimulate these regions to change functions - like stimulating regions involved in moral judgment or language to test effects.

  • The author purchased a brain stimulator and tried using it while rowing on a rowing machine to see if it improved his endurance or distance covered. However, his experiment was inconclusive because the stimulator was turned on both times without his knowledge.

  • He discussed using brain stimulation to potentially enhance sports performance with psychiatrist William Stubbeman, who claimed stimulating a region involved in visual object identification significantly improved his tennis serve accuracy both immediately and long-term. However, more research is still needed.

  • A tennis player performed an experiment using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to stimulate his motor cortex before practices and matches. He reported subjective improvements in his game and winning more matches, but cautioned more research is needed.

  • Companies are now marketing tDCS devices directly to athletes and sports teams to help with motor learning and improving skills through targeted brain stimulation during practice. The US ski team has experimented with this.

  • Golfer Ernie Els was known for a memorable missed 6-inch putt where he overthought the technical aspects. Too much conscious thinking can hinder instinctual performance in sports.

  • Researchers experimented with using tDCS to inhibit the prefrontal cortex of golf novices learning to putt. Those who received inhibition stimulation during practice sessions holed more putts later without stimulation, suggesting it aided implicit motor learning over explicit technical thinking.

  • More research on using brain stimulation to help shift cognitive performance to a higher level during learning therapies could help patients unlock and gain more control over harmful thoughts. But the effects may emerge non-linearly and more research is still needed.

The passage tells the story of Nadia Chomyn, a girl who displayed extraordinary drawing skills at a young age of 5-6 years old, far beyond what would be expected for her age. When psychologists assessed her, they were stunned by the level of detail, perspective, shading and use of lines in her drawings of animals and humans. However, she had learning difficulties and was otherwise developmentally behind in other areas. As she grew older and her other skills increased, her unique drawing ability faded. The passage suggests some people with difficulties may have untapped abilities or “phase transitions” in the brain that can be unlocked given the right environment or stimuli, as seen in Nadia’s case. Her story shows how extraordinary responses can occur when the brain is “dosed” or stimulated properly.

  • Stephen is a professional artist known for his ability to draw incredibly detailed cityscapes completely from memory, even after just a brief helicopter ride over the city.

  • Neuroscientists hypothesize that autistic individuals like Nadia and Stephen develop “splinter skills” due to neural rewiring in the brain. Damage or dysfunction in one area causes other regions to take over tasks, sometimes in enhanced ways that leverage their different specializations.

  • The right brain is often linked to spatial ability, visualization, and construction skills, while the left brain handles language and logic. Savants like Nadia and Stephen may gain abilities from the right brain taking over when the left is impaired.

  • Darold Treffert has studied hundreds of savants over his career. He describes several patients at a children’s unit with unusual skills like rapid jigsaw puzzles, vast historical recall, and perfect basketball free throws.

  • Leslie Lemke was born blind yet could play complex piano pieces from hearing them once. His story gained national attention. Savant skills were further popularized by the movie Rain Man.

  • Treffert maintains a registry of over 300 savants worldwide. While most have autism, not all do, and some acquired their skills later in life through unknown means. Their talents provide insights into cognitive enhancement.

Pip Taylor was involved in two head injuries - one in 1994 when she banged her head on a bus, and another in 2012 when she fell down a flight of stairs in Chester. Before the injuries, she was not very talented at drawing and struggled to draw faces realistically. However, after the 2012 head injury, she noticed a significant improvement in her drawing ability. She could suddenly draw very detailed and realistic faces and figures. Psychologists view Pip as an “acquired savant” - someone who developed enhanced artistic talents after brain damage. While her story is hard to fully verify, meeting her in person suggested she was being truthful and not doing it for publicity or money. Her case provides an example of how brain injuries can potentially trigger dormant skills or abilities in some individuals.

  • As children develop, their drawing skills progress from simply interacting with objects to developing technical ability through practice. Some children give up, while others find ways to disguise their lack of skills through humor or unrealistic imagery.

  • Intelligence tests that measure drawing ability compared to age have limitations. Improving drawing through methods like brain stimulation has been argued to increase intelligence scores as well.

  • A study showed that electrical brain stimulation could improve aspects of drawing in a stroke patient named Bob, such as perspective, accuracy, and realism. However, it did not make him an artistic genius.

  • For true intelligence, some knowledge needs to be “dropped” or ignored in favor of abstraction. As children’s brains develop, they start categorizing concrete examples into abstract concepts to avoid being overwhelmed by details.

  • Some savants seem able to access dropped concrete details while losing ability for abstraction. Autism may involve an inability to convert concrete details into abstract concepts.

  • Patients with frontotemporal dementia often develop artistic skills as their disease damages frontal and temporal brain areas. Their drawings tend to focus on concrete realism over abstraction. Brain damage appears to trigger a shift from left-brain to right-brain activity.

The passage discusses how some people switch from abstract to more concrete processing in the brain. It gives examples of savant artistic skills emerging in dementia patients after injury to the prefrontal cortex, allowing the right parietal lobe to take over processing.

Other examples discussed are perfect pitch in music and synesthesia, where some perceive sounds as colors or visualize timelines spatially. This represents a focus on raw, unprocessed sensory data rather than abstract relationships.

Research on synesthetes found they performed better on tests of time awareness, spatial ability, autobiographical memory recall, suggesting their concrete focus confers cognitive benefits. One man was able to recall over 120 accurate autobiographical details from years decades prior.

This demonstrates the human brain can break from general intelligence collectively to vastly overfocus on one skill, due to altered communication routes and brain regions brought online by compensation or atypical development, without associated damage or disease. It suggests hidden brain capabilities can be unlocked through changes in processing style.

  • Orlando was hit in the head by a solid ball while playing. Since then, he has had a powerful memory and can recall the exact day of the week and weather for any date after his accident in 1979.

  • Louise fell skiing and hit her head. She now remembers floor plans and details of buildings she visited in extraordinary detail, like the contents of a vending machine from years ago.

  • These examples show how head injuries can “rewire” the brain and trigger access to memories buried in the subconscious. Orlando and Louise seem to have stored sensory and context details without realizing.

  • Near-death experiences sometimes involve “life reviews” where one’s life flashes before their eyes. This is thought to be an unprompted retrieval of specific memories to consciousness from chaos in the brain.

  • Claims of suddenly speaking a foreign language after an accident are likely cases of “foreign accent syndrome” where speech impediments cause someone to speak with an unintended accent, not true language ability.

  • Some experiences like deja vu involve ancient memories or sensations forcing to the front of the mind from stored “archives” in the brain. Head injuries may provide a window into these subconscious stores of information.

The passage discusses evidence that memories can be unexpectedly triggered in people with epilepsy, sometimes before a seizure. Brain stimulation experiments on epilepsy patients have reliably caused them to recall specific past memories and experiences. Likewise, stimulating different parts of the brain in other patients has induced them to temporarily speak in unfamiliar accents or languages. This suggests the subconscious mind has its own processing abilities beyond just basic recognition and responses. Even complex tasks like math problems and language analysis can be performed subconsciously according to experiments where people are shown stimuli too briefly for conscious awareness. The ability to access subconscious processing through brain stimulation may help explain some savant skills.

  • Some subliminal priming examples like hidden images in films are meant more as pranks than serious experiments. Studies claiming to find effects of subliminal words on behavior have faced reproducibility issues.

  • Early experiments at the University of Tulsa in the 1980s-90s showed people could unconsciously learn and track patterns in rapidly displayed images, though they were unaware of it consciously.

  • The “cocktail party effect” of tuning into conversations when hearing one’s name demonstrates how the unconscious processes all sounds but only flags relevant information for attention.

  • Calendar calculating savants can provide dates far in the past or future. Their ability is thought to rely on unconsciously identifying patterns and anchor points in calendar systems through massive practice, rather than conscious memorization.

  • With extensive practice, a psychology student was able to develop calendar calculating abilities similar to savants by automatizing the underlying calculations subconsciously, even if he could no longer explain his process consciously. This supports the idea savants rely on general subconscious mechanisms as well.

  • The author attended a Mensa weekend meeting in Glasgow to learn more about high IQ society members and what united them.

  • At the meeting, they found members engaged mostly in socializing and recreational activities like games. Many edited newsletters for specialized interest groups.

  • Members did not want to discuss or compare IQ scores. It was seen as a social club, not focused on intelligence. Reasons for joining varied from curiosity to proving worth after school bullying.

  • In the past, Mensa was more popular and people were less embarrassed about IQ. Some still wished to keep membership private from neighbors.

  • The author questions how accurately people know their IQ scores, noting childhood scores become redundant in adulthood as tests and norms change. Mensa scores don’t represent a quotient but deviation from an average set score of 100.

  • Overall it provides insight into what Mensa members do at social gatherings and their varied motivations for membership in the high IQ society.

  • IQ tests measure a person’s intelligence relative to others in the population, not their age. About 1 in 50 people have an IQ below 70 or above 130. Only 1 in 1600 have an IQ above 150, and 1 in 30,000 above 160.

  • There is a curious modern relationship with intelligence, where those with lower IQs used to be looked down on but now public scorn is sometimes directed at those with higher IQs, possibly due to envy or a society that has fallen out of love with expertise.

  • High intelligence in children is sometimes hidden to avoid bullying. Prodigies like William Sidis achieved extraordinary things at a very young age but their later lives were more mediocre, leading some to gloat over their “fall.”

  • There is a common belief that those with high IQs lack common sense, but there is no evidence this is true. Common sense is difficult to define, and judgments about it often come down to whether the person agrees with a particular decision.

  • One theory is that high-IQ individuals are driven to find novel solutions to problems rather than relying on established common sense approaches, even if their ideas are sometimes wrong or silly. But more evidence and examples would be needed to evaluate this theory.

The passage discusses intelligence and common sense. It argues that abstract analysis of social problems can produce left-wing views, which some characterize as “political correctness”. IQ is generally considered a good measure of general intelligence, though it does not cover the full spectrum of human abilities.

The passage then discusses the case of Joe Arridy, a mentally disabled man who was executed in 1938 for a murder he did not commit. He had an intellectual age of a toddler. Several death row inmates in the US have intellectual impairments, and there is debate around using IQ tests to determine if they are eligible for the death penalty.

Steve Greenspan, an educational psychologist, works to save condemned prisoners he believes are intellectually disabled. He argued that Teddy Chester should be spared execution due to mental retardation. The passage concludes by detailing Robert Perske’s efforts in the 1990s to secure a posthumous pardon for Joe Arridy after reading a poem about his execution.

  • Joe Arridy was a mentally disabled man who was executed in 1938 for the murder of Dorothy Drain, despite little evidence directly linking him to the crime.

  • His intellectual abilities were extremely limited - he had a reported mental age of 4.5 years old and could not understand concepts like right/wrong, death, or the legal proceedings against him.

  • Psychologist Steve Greenspan analyzed records about Joe Arridy and demonstrated he was too intellectually disabled to have committed the crime or given a credible confession. However, the courts did not consider his intellectual disability as grounds for an insanity defense.

  • In the decades since, Greenspan and others have argued the legal system should take a broader view of intelligence beyond just IQ scores. They are developing new tests like the Diagnostic Adaptive Behaviour Scale that measure things like practical skills and ability to understand concepts. A sufficiently low score on such a test could spare someone from the death penalty.

  • Greenspan has also examined concepts like gullibility and rational thinking as important aspects of intelligence not fully captured by IQ. Susceptibility to irrational beliefs or failure to consider consequences rationally may indicate cognitive limitations separate from academic abilities. This could help explain seemingly “irrational” behaviors across all levels of intellect.

  • The writer experimented with electrical brain stimulation by targeting different areas of his brain to try enhancing cognition and performance on an IQ test.

  • He considered targeting the motor cortex but decided to focus on areas more related to thinking like the anterior temporal lobes, based on a study by neuroscientist Allan Snyder.

  • Snyder’s studies found electrical stimulation of the anterior temporal lobes improved skills like proofreading, drawing, numerical estimation and solving problems requiring lateral thinking.

  • The writer began stimulating his own anterior temporal lobes at home each day before his IQ retest. On the first attempt, he experienced phosphenes (flashes of light), showing it can have unexpected effects.

  • He retook the IQ test while still stimulating his brain, curious if it would improve his scores. The test conditions and questions were similar to his previous attempt.

So in summary, the writer experimented with low-level electrical brain stimulation targeting thinking areas of his brain, based on Snyder’s studies, in an attempt to enhance his performance on an IQ retest.

  • The author took a cognitive test after taking modafinil (also known as Provigil), a drug meant to improve focus and concentration.

  • At first, the drug helped the author speed through easy questions. But on harder questions, it had the opposite effect - sucking the author deeply into analyzing questions rather than moving on if stuck.

  • For one long-form question, the author was unable to extract the key facts and instead got lost in imagining details, wasting time.

  • Similar effects were seen in chess players on modafinil - they took longer over moves, losing on time despite better gameplay.

  • Politicians proposed funding classical music for babies to boost intelligence, based on a study finding temporary IQ gains in adults listening to Mozart. However, further studies couldn’t replicate these gains.

  • “Brain training” games show gains on specific practised tasks but not transferable skills, despite industry claims. A BBC study found limited real-world benefits except possibly for elderly participants.

  • While cognitive training may help prevent losses for older adults, doubts remain about broad claims of boosting general intelligence. More research is still needed.

  • As people age, their mental faculties can decline, making everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, personal finances more difficult. Brain training aims to mitigate these impacts but evidence is limited.

  • Criticism of brain training is that it provides little transferable benefit. However, brain games are harmless and people play games for enjoyment anyway. Until better options exist, trying brain training is reasonable.

  • Most studies find adherence is low, as maintaining a brain training regimen like 10 minutes daily is challenging. Physical training adherence faces similar issues.

  • Intelligence and IQ have steadily increased across generations in developed nations, called the Flynn effect. Average IQ scores have risen 3 points per decade.

  • This rise may be due to environmental factors from industrialization and modern life that place more demands on abstract thinking skills measured by IQ tests. Conditions in the past may have led to lower general intelligence on average.

  • Increasing intelligence seems to be enhancing cognitive abilities in the real world and manifesting in areas like problem-solving, scientific output, and less diagnosed intellectual disabilities. However, causes are not definitively proven to be the Flynn effect.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Universal education has been established and family sizes are as low as they will go. Leisure time is saturated with hobbies. This leads to a plateau in national IQ scores as populations hit a “brain-power ceiling.”

  • Some developed countries like the Scandinavian nations seem to have reached this plateau phase, maximizing IQ through heavy investments in education and welfare. Countries in East Asia and others are still improving and approaching the plateau.

  • Factors like better nutrition, healthcare, education, and increased exposure to abstract thinking/problem solving from a younger age have all contributed to rising IQ scores over generations (the Flynn effect).

  • While environment plays a huge role, the IQ rises seen over short periods of time are likely too large to be explained by genetics alone. However, some speculate intelligent design/genetic engineering could further increase IQ.

  • Identifying specific genes linked to intelligence has proven difficult as effects are small and many genes are involved. However, progressively more genes could be identified and “edited” to have progressively bigger impacts on intellectual abilities.

  • Stephen Hsu argues with enough genetic modifications, one could theoretically produce individuals with IQs over 1,000, far surpassing all historically high achievers, with immense cognitive capabilities. However, this remains speculative future technology.

The author took two IQ tests - the first time scored 125, and the second time scored 135 after taking cognitive enhancing drugs (modafinil) and undergoing brain stimulation. They acknowledge the increase could be due to statistical variability, the placebo effect, or luck. IQ scores and other tests come with a range of error, so the scores may not truly be different.

However, even small increases in test scores can have large real-world impacts, as universities and jobs use strict cut-offs. The author recalls invigilating an exam where a student was distressed about outside noise affecting his score by a few marks. Statistically insignificant differences may still be meaningful in practical terms.

While the author’s experiment was uncontrolled and generated no reliable data, case studies can still help identify effects worth further study. Larger, controlled trials are needed to establish if cognitive enhancement truly works and is effective.

This issue raises difficult ethical questions about fairness, opportunity, and the relationship between innate ability and earned achievement. As jobs become more cognitively demanding, cognitive enhancement could greatly impact society by allowing more people to reach their potential. But it may also be seen as undermining effort. Overall, an open discussion is needed to thoughtfully address these questions.

Here is a one sentence summary:

To smash down the gates implies forcefully breaking through and destroying the entrance barriers.

Here are summaries of the key points from the passages:

  • ‘of intelligence’: Discusses the genetics of high intelligence and recent studies that suggest both genetic and environmental factors influence intelligence.

  • ‘segregate’: Examines the shift in US policy from 1900-1938 from segregating vs sterilizing people deemed feebleminded.

  • ‘nymphomaniacs’: Analyzes geographic studies of asylums and other mental health facilities, noting they were often located across water from populated areas.

  • ‘Wedgwood’: Discusses the 1912-1914 UK parliamentary debates on eugenics and treatment of those deemed feebleminded.

  • ‘young boy’: Details the assessment of feeblemindedness in school children through physical and mental examinations.

  • ‘television documentary’: References a documentary about Meanwood Park Hospital, a former psychiatric hospital in Leeds, UK.

  • ‘studies of the genetics of intelligence’: Cites recent research examining the genetics of high intelligence.

  • ‘Rushton’: Notes the death of J. Philippe Rushton, a controversial academic who published work on racial differences in intelligence.

Here are summaries of the passages:

  • ‘numerosity’ - A 2006 study showing that normal people can be given savant-like numerosity skills through magnetic brain stimulation.

  • ‘solve a classic puzzle’ - A 2012 study finding that brain stimulation enabled participants to solve an inherently difficult puzzle.

  • ‘expert chess players’ - A 2017 randomized controlled trial on methylphenidate, modafinil and caffeine for cognitive enhancement in chess players.

  • ‘Mozart effect’ - A 2010 meta-analysis finding no evidence for the idea that listening to Mozart enhances intelligence.

  • ‘wasting their time’ - A 2014 article where neuroscientists spoke out against exaggerations of benefits from brain games.

  • ‘asked viewers’ - A 2010 study putting brain training products to the test in actual cognitive tasks.

  • ‘silver-haired’ - A 2015 randomized controlled trial on the effects of online cognitive training in healthy older adults.

  • ‘babies smarter’ - A 2009 New York Times article on refund demands for brain development products.

  • ‘Flynn effect’ - A 2013 examination of the phenomenon of rising IQ scores over time.

  • ‘tentative signs’ - A 2005 analysis of longitudinal chess data as tentative evidence of rising population ability levels.

  • ‘doomed to idiocy’ - A 2013 meta-analysis questioning claims that Victorians were more intelligent based on reaction time data.

  • ‘mathematics’ - A 2005 study linking rising IQs to mathematics education, schooling exposure and brain development.

  • ‘smartest humans’ - A 2014 article arguing that super-intelligent humans may be created through advances.

  • ‘genetic tweaks’ - A 2014 paper and 2015 article on genetically engineering more intelligent pigs and the architecture of traits like intelligence.

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About Matheus Puppe