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Science

People Trained To Experience an Overlap In Senses Also Receive IQ Boost 68

Zothecula writes Tasting lemons when they see a number seven, regarding a certain letter as being yellow in color. Not a great deal is known about why some people experience an overlapping of the senses, a phenomena known as synesthesia. But a new study conducted at the University of Sussex has suggested that specific training of the mind can induce the effects of the condition. The study even suggests that such training can boost a person's IQ.
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People Trained To Experience an Overlap In Senses Also Receive IQ Boost

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  • by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @11:25AM (#48425863) Journal

    Is the 12-point boost in IQ permanent or does it fade over three months like the primary effects of the training?

    • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @12:10PM (#48426239) Homepage Journal

      Intelligence is largely similar between all humans: we don't have actual boundaries. The normal intellectual boundary is artificial; even physical limits are artificial.

      One of the most famous examples of the human artificial boundary phenomena is running. For the longest time, a four-minute mile was considered physiologically impossible. When the record was broken, it was swiftly broken again by another bloke a month later. Within a few years, everyone was running four-minute miles. It's now a standard, and the record is much lower than four minutes.

      What held humans back from breaking the four-minute mile was not believing they could run a mile that fast. By not believing in the possibility, they trained themselves to assess those last precious seconds as the best they could do; they would push themselves, find difficulty, and assume this was as good as it gets. They wouldn't push themselves further because the exertion was interpreted as some sort of dangerous violation of what is possible, safe, or sane: it's hard because it can't be done, so the pain and exhaustion mean it's time to stop here.

      In modern times, Olympic records are broken every year; mental mathematics are continuously improved; and humans at the World Memory Competition continuously break previous records for memorizing lots of shit in little time. Typists type faster, bicyclists bicycle faster, and IQ tests follow a sliding scale such that Einstein was kind of dumb and we've repeatedly revamped the Culture Fair and changed the baselines for the Wechsler. People are of the mind that anything that can be done can be done slightly better, and continue to progress by degrees over their predecessors.

      What makes this progress possible--and what impedes it--is the form of practice taken. Time spent practicing has little to no impact on skill; it is the mode of practice that matters most. K. Anders Ericsson published a theory of Deliberate Practice: that a person practices in a goal-oriented manner with a focus on technique, folding in constant, continuous feedback to improve upon his deficiencies. In short: a person who simply tries repeatedly to memorize a deck of 52 cards will make small gains; while a person who reviews and notices himself confusing or slowing on specific cards will target those cards, correct the issue, and make rapid gains both small and large.

      All of this brings us to a head about intelligence, and about the permanence of training.

      Intelligence is a matter of creativity: a person must be able to apply knowledge to solve problems, rather than repeat back rote facts. Creativity is, in turn, a matter of knowledge: invention and inventory are the same; you invent by reassembling the inventory of your mind into new forms, dividing a problem into recognizable components and adjusting solutions to similar components so as to produce a solution. Knowledge is, of course, a matter of memory: you cannot know what you do not remember.

      Memory is improved by technique. The primary considerations are meaningfulness: information is best memorized when it is organized (grouped) and attached to well-understood ideas. Images are immediately well-understood, and so visualization is used to convert complex thoughts into meaningful representations of known topics (i.e. a running duck--both "running" and "duck" are meaningful--can be visualized). Attaching sounds, smells, and actions makes a more vivid, accessible, memorable image; and complex techniques and systems such as linking, story forming, and mind palaces further aid in recall by providing indexing or association.

      Synesthetes make concepts meaningful by attaching other concepts. Sound forms its own imagery, or numbers have their own smells. The mimicry of this is a core technique in memory improvement: speed card participants attach playing cards to images, emotions, smells, sounds, textures, and whatever else they can; while numeric memory is aided by a PAO system, converting numbers into people, actio

      • Progress in the 1 mile run has been fairly regular. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mile_run_world_record_progression [wikipedia.org] Many people may have regarded the 4 minute mile as impossible, but that doesn't seem to have had significantly altered progress to and beyond the 4 minute mile.

        Intelligence is a matter of creativity: a person must be able to apply knowledge to solve problems, rather than repeat back rote facts. Creativity is, in turn, a matter of knowledge: invention and inventory are the same; you invent by re

        • Simplifications are good for application. All heavy scientific research becomes simplified application.

          It's a gross oversimplification to say you can do anything that you put your mind to; it's not an oversimplification to say that everything requires effort, but methodical effort can bring everyone to the same skill set if they are sufficiently motivated. The first implies that all things are apparently easy, or at least equally difficult; the second implies that all things are equally possible for all

      • "One of the most famous examples of the human artificial boundary phenomena is running. For the longest time, a four-minute mile was considered physiologically impossible. When the record was broken, it was swiftly broken again by another bloke a month later. Within a few years, everyone was running four-minute miles. It's now a standard, and the record is much lower than four minutes. "

        The progress in mile records over time is linear. There's no evidence that people believing that it was impossible held an

        • 1945: 4:01.4. 1954: 3:59.4.

          Almost a decade to improve two seconds. In 1934, the time was 4:06.8, giving 5.4 seconds of improvement over a decade; in 1964, the improvement was 5.3 seconds for the decade. There was also a period from 1895 to 1911 where the record, just above 4:15, improved by 1/5 of one second.

          More importantly, once the 4 minute mile was broken, it quickly became a standard benchmark. This was a world record set for just a few years, after dangling 1.4 seconds out of reach for a de

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )

        Tasting lemons when they see a number seven, regarding a certain letter as being yellow in color.

        When I read this, I didn't think of this "Memory is improved by technique.". It made me think that they're talking about an overlap in perception, not consciously trying to make associations. The only reason I thought about this is because I get an "overlap" with several of my senses with my vision.

        If I am working with something new to me or something happens unexpectedly, I "see" stuff. I can "see" sound, I can "see" touch, I can "see" my thoughts. I actually have a hard time reading story books because

        • Yes, that happens when you have strong synesthesia. Those of us who don't, or who have a moderate synesthesia, are able to willfully apply such associations as a matter of technique. This makes our minds more functional.

          Solomon Shereshevskii had such strong synesthesia that he couldn't read. His brain turned everything into a mess; visual imagery and metaphor were lost on him. Whatever was going on in the story was occluded behind a wall of garbage; but he could vividly recall that wall of garbage by

      • by turing_m ( 1030530 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @04:33PM (#48429043)

        Intelligence is largely similar between all humans: we don't have actual boundaries.

        You do know what a bell curve is? Sure, most people tend towards a mean but the difference between either end is immense, with very real implications. It separates hedge fund managers from janitors. Different races and ethnicities also tend towards different means. Half a century of trying to eliminate "the gap" between blacks and whites (about a standard deviation in IQ) has been a dismal failure. Billions of dollars has been thrown at this money pit with nothing to show for it. We will see commercial fusion reactors, strong AI, heck, even mass-market-popular commercial flying cars before the gap has been eliminated.

        IQ tests follow a sliding scale such that Einstein was kind of dumb and we've repeatedly revamped the Culture Fair and changed the baselines for the Wechsler.

        I am definitely on the right side of the bell curve, I was born a lot later than Einstein, and modern physics is still one of the hardest subjects I've taken, if not the hardest. I call BS on this one. If Einstein did not so great on an IQ test, it says more about the particular IQ test than Einstein's IQ. I suspect that there were questions on the IQ test where Einstein was right and the IQ test was wrong, and/or the IQ test was only calibrated to be accurate near the mean and not where Einstein's IQ was. You can take a hundred cram school attendees who have managed to ace the SAT through sheer bloody-mindedness and still not get the intellectual output of one Einstein.

        Attaching sounds, smells, and actions makes a more vivid, accessible, memorable image; and complex techniques and systems such as linking, story forming, and mind palaces further aid in recall by providing indexing or association.

        I know the technique of mind palaces and find them utterly unwieldy. Why use a mind palace to remember a fact when you can just write it down or google it?

        • It separates hedge fund managers from janitors.

          Don't leave us in suspense: which job is displaying intelligence?

          Different races and ethnicities also tend towards different means.

          Impossible to show. Different cultures tend towards different means, for various reasons. To demonstrate IQ differences between races, we'd have to eliminate cultural differences.

          If Einstein did not so great on an IQ test,

          As far as I can tell, based on a little Googling, Einstein never took an IQ test. Various people have

        • You do know what a bell curve is? Sure, most people tend towards a mean but the difference between either end is immense, with very real implications.

          You assume performance as such is inherent, and cannot be changed. It's not.

          I am definitely on the right side of the bell curve, I was born a lot later than Einstein, and modern physics is still one of the hardest subjects I've taken, if not the hardest.

          Bacon claimed that a man cannot know much of mathematics until he has studied for at least 40 years of his life. What Bacon knew about mathematics is well-known to most grade school kids now; we have since developed calculus, statistics, modern physics, and all such things beyond basic Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry.

          Do you honestly think Einstein's physics was the pinnacle of modern physics? Special relativity is nothin

  • Expecting a sentence and seeing only fragments, not having a proper subject and verb.

  • There is a rebranching of the brain circuitry that is linked to a cognitive boost - also being used to experimentally treat dementia and other similar disorders.

  • So...then...does this count as an endorsement of chemically induced synesthesia?

    LSD: Boost your IQ *and* be convinced you're a snake-monkey who can read the secrets of the universe!

    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      I used to use synesthesia, but since I started using Clementine [github.io] the nyanalyzer cat has become the main music visualization for me.

  • ... tastes funny to me.

  • I'm surprised there aren't more neat tricks like this. I learned to offload some 3D geometric simulations to my subconscious and instantly having it hand back a result. It's complicated but basically you send a request to the part of your brain that's responsible for unconscious generation of realistic objects in dreams and it returns a proper, accurate result without having to consciously make the determination yourself. That's why I can solve problems at superhuman speeds while doing 3D modeling at my
    • by pla ( 258480 )
      I'm actually the CIO and they made me part time 3D designer because of that :D

      "I make half a mil a year to align the corporate IT strategy with the CEO's vision... But the company would rather use me to fill a 50k chair".
      • Maybe his CIO position is boring, and being in the hot seat gives him both something to do that interests him and a better understanding of the technical needs of the company.
      • "I make half a mil a year to align the corporate IT strategy with the CEO's vision... But the company would rather use me to fill a 50k chair".

        Few leaders want underlings who are good at determining what their "visions" will actually look like once implemented.

    • You too?

      I can't offload--at least not that I'm aware of--but I can simulate anything and everything in my head. I've hit physics problems that I didn't understand purely by moving objects I'd assembled in my head and getting unexpected results; an hour of experimentation--in my head--allowed me to figure out what was going on in the system. I use the same facilities to model economics and human societal behavior on a large scale, which is why I have so much trust in markets, but why I also firmly challe

      • In truth, the retarded are just punted back a few dozen meters. Provided they're educable in the most basic sense, they can be trained to be normal; and, once normal, they can use the training to become hyper-intelligent.

        This seems highly unlikely. You are in essence claiming physical deficiencies in brain structure will simply disappear with enough training. This in turn implies that anyone who has such a handicap is merely too lazy to overcome it. Do you have any evidence?

        • Daniel Tammat went from being an incredibly-fucked-up autistic sociopath to a fairly normal, highly-intelligent savant. Kim Peek, on the other hand, has brain damage such that he can't properly be educated: he just regurgitates facts and occasionally interacts with people by what amounts to reflex, although it's cognitive reflex and appears to approximate intelligence ("I don't know! Shut up! I'm reading!!").

          Peek is interesting in that he can learn, but can't be educated: he is so divorced from huma

    • the part of your brain that's responsible for unconscious generation of realistic objects in dreams

      There's very little that's realistic about dreams. Even Kekule's famous dream about the benzene molecule wasn't very realistic, since carbon atoms don't dance and hole hands. Any realism you likely see in dreams is because you can't tell the difference when you're dreaming.

  • Is there some way to simulate synesthesia? Drop acid? I kinda want to try it now.
    • Re:simulate it? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday November 20, 2014 @12:14PM (#48426283) Homepage Journal
      LSD will induce it. I don't recommend this. Psilocybin will do it as well; I also don't recommend this, but it may be safer than LSD. Some research suggests LSD is safer. Both are poisons. My understanding of LSD is it allows far too much neuroplasticity: traumatic experiences when on LSD can reform the brain such that a later trigger may cause a drug state, which can be disastrous (i.e. high while driving, decide you're a bird and leap out a window, etc.). There is dispute over this being an actual possibility.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Psilocybin is rather safe (regarding lethality, not commenting on behavior while under the influence).

        The median lethal dose when consumed orally is 280 milligrams per KG of body weight. From the link below:
        "1.7 kilograms (3.7 lb) of dried mushrooms, or 17 kilograms (37 lb) of fresh mushrooms, would be required for a 60-kilogram (130 lb) person to reach the 280 mg/kg LD50".

        Given common dosages are 1-3 grams (up to 5 grams for heavier users) of dried mushroom there is very little risk. I'm not sure if one

  • This study is interesting, but I suspect it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The sample group is tiny, and the IQ increase is huge. I think an interesting and fairly easy-to-answer question is: how does the average IQ of large numbers of synesthetes compare to the population at large? I've had the most common form of synesthesia (letters-colors) from my earliest memories. I don't think it was induced by environmental factors like colored magnetic letters. The phenomenon for me is not actually seein
  • I started studying piano 7 years ago (I'd previously been a semi-pro woodwind player). One of the things I noticed was that I was i/o bound reading the highly parallelized piano input stream (two staves w/ multinotes on each) and this interfered with my proprioception (perception of where my limbs and philangeas are in space). Over time,it's gotten a lot easier to read and perceive muscle motion through space. This process started at age 33, and I'm pretty sure it's been more difficult because of that, but
    • ...but I can't help suspecting the forced rewiring of my brain hasn't helped my general learning capacity.

      I expected you to say that it HAS helped your general learning capacity, but you're implying that it hasn't. Could you please clarify or reinforce your point?

      • by digsbo ( 1292334 )
        I think it has helped, though I have no proof. But there's no scientific way I could get proof. IQ tests are pretty useless for this kind of thing, and there's no control group. Small sample size and all...
  • Everybody knows Carrots a 6 ..

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears

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