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Proper rest can boost your intelligence

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Intellectual exercise stimulates the brain The concept of having to stress one’s brain with new intellectual challenges to boost one’s intellectual capacity has been well-received by enlightened individuals and educators alike.  Pushing oneself to learning, e.g., new skills and languages has been realized to be alike training one’s muscles at the gym. Indeed, intelligence quotient correlates with level of education, testifying on the fact that intelligence is not a fixed ability but rather using one’s brain does develop intelligence. Further, remarkable brain plasticity has been demonstrated for also adults, one is never too old to learn something new. Yet, intellectual exercise is not alone sufficient, as more recent scientific evidence shows that brain capacity develops during the rest that follows the intellectual exercise.

Sleep on it to turn the stimulation to gains

In the light of cognitive neuroscience findings, the old wisdom “to sleep on it” when faced with a difficult problem seems wiser than what was at some point appreciated. Recent research that has looked into effects of sleep on learning relevant skills and materials. This research has demonstrated the beneficial effects of sleep on memory consolidation.

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What is even more striking is that sleep has been shown to enhance probability of gaining novel insights in a task that one has been engaged in. Accumulating evidence points to number of different sleep stages each being important for different aspects of learning (for a review, see Stickgold R Sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nature 437, 1272-1278, 2005. doi:10.1038/nature04286).

Long-term stress is deleterious to the brain

Besides getting the good night of sleep amidst all the intellectual stimulation, one has to avoid long-term stress to realize one’s full intellectual potential. Short-term stress is often an important component to motivation and perseverance that help accomplish important goals in life, at work, and also in one’s strive for intellectual development. In contrast, long-term stress has highly deleterious effects on one’s brain. For example, hippocampus, the structure that supports storing of new memories, shows markedly reduced rates of neurogenesis and volume loss when exposed to chronic stress (for a review on effects of chronic stress on brain, see Lupien SJ et al. 2009 Nature Reviews Neuroscience vol 10, 434-445). In light of these scientific findings, the biblical wisdom of “resting on the seventh day” seems to be wise advice if one wants to boost one’s intelligence — or even stay at same level. In sum, studying hard balanced with proper rest holds the keys to intellectual growth. If you would like to find out more about your cognitive abilities or if you are a science student, download the free eBook “Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience” by Iiro Jääskeläinen at You might also want to check out Iiro’s article “Cognitive Neuroscience: Understanding the neural basis of the human mind“.

About the author: Iiro P. Jääskeläinen obtained his Ph.D. in 1995 at the Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland. Currently, he is a cognitive neuroscientist at the Brain and Mind Laboratory at the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science in Aalto University School of Science, Espoo, Finland. Prior to joining Aalto University, Dr. Jääskeläinen worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Helsinki and as an Instructor in Radiology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA. – See more at:

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