Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power – Dan Hurley

A long time ago, psychologists believed that intelligence and IQ were fixed at birth. In this book, Hurley digs deeper by meeting with field specialists and researchers, and he becomes a human guinea pig. He improves his fluid intelligence over time by doing a bunch of different stimulating activities. The book goes over practical findings that sharpen the minds of children, young adults, seniors, and those with cognitive challenges. It was interesting to read and it provides tips on what you can do to improve your life too.


  1. The ability to rein in emotional impulse; to read another’s innermost feelings; to handle relationship smoothly is as important as, or more important than, intellectual capacity.
  2. Cognitive control is not just an intellectual matter. In depression, people can’t stop thinking about these negative thoughts. And the problem with people who can’t delay gratification, who become obese or develop an addiction, is that they can’t get a thought about some desire out of their mind.
  3. Most of the things that psychology talks about, you can’t observe. They are constructs. We have to come up with various ways of measuring them, of defining them, but we can’t specifically observe them.
  4. Learning a second language well enough to be considered bilingual does seem to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. Although researchers have known for years that new neurons develop continuously in the hippocampus, a section crucial for forming new memories, little has been known about how to augment their survival. So even though exercise, sex, and Prozac all help new neurons to be born, the question is how do we keep them alive longer? To become a permanent, functional part of the brain.
  6. Tasks that are difficult to learn are the most effective.
  7. What is it about tobacco that ravages the heart, lungs, teeth, and skin but somehow guards against a disease of the brain?
  8. If you’re sleepy, nicotine tends to make you more alert. If you’re anxious, it tends to calm you. The primary neurotransmitter that nicotine nudges is dopamine, which plays an important role in modulating attention, reward-seeking behaviors, drug addictions, and movement.
  9. What is a thought? A thought is what happens when some pattern of firing of neurons has happened in your brain.
  10. Everybody knows that intelligence is just a social construct.
  11. Working memory and fluid intelligence: The important thing for both of them is attention control, your ability to focus your attention on me as I’m talking and block out any distraction, so you can willfully and volitionally move your attention from one thing to another . That variation in attention control is important not just in cognition, but also in behavioral and emotional control.
  12. The important thing is to never stop trying to improve whatever you want to improve.
  13. Before you try to solve a problem, describe it to yourself. That’s a very good strategy in life.
  14. According to our theory, mindfulness meditation is comparable to physical activity, in that it changes the brain state.
  15. Facts win, even when they’re disappointing to the scientist.
  16. Isn’t that how life teaches us? We find out what we’re good at as children and teenagers, and we stick with it. Hurley learned from this training process that it forced him to do things he sucked at. He found it liberating and inspiring. If he improved any of his cognitive abilities in any way, he believed it was due to, in part, by simply engaging in learning new things.
Love is not eye contact over dinner. It's not holding hands. Those are just manifestations of love. And intelligence is the same.
*I take no credit for any of these points.

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