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How to Increase IQ

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:
IQ puzzle pieces

Most people think that they can’t increase IQ, but they are wrong. Whether it’s through mental exercises, supplements, or equipment this post explores it all.

Increase IQ by Improving Brain Function

Working Memory is the king of performance, bar none. It is also a better predictor of success than IQ [1]. And it can be trained. By practicing Dual-N-Back memory games, one can boost working memory significantly [2].

1) Juggling is a way to increase both gray and white matter in the brain [3]. Few activities compare in their effect on the brain. Synchronizing left and right hands with a continuous rhythm increases the cross-talk between brain hemispheres.

2) Musical Instruments promote brain plasticity, which allows for the assimilation of new information and schemas. Regular, deliberate practice will give the greatest benefit here [4].

3) Knowing more words and multiple languages enhances a cognitive phenomenon called ‘co-triggering’. Co-triggering occurs when a person hears part of a word and begins guessing at the rest of the word. One’s personal lexicon can trigger a passive recollection that strengthens brain connections [5].

My recommendation here is to learn a couple of new words every day, read heavily, and periodically study a new language.

4) Reading triggers a virtuous cycle in which the more words you master, the sturdier framework you have for incorporating others. You might have noticed, for instance, that when you read a new book, genre, or author there is a slight adjustment phase. Studies show long-term connectivity apparent in “embodied semantics” is evidence for persistent reading benefits [6].

5) Frequent movement. During prolonged sitting, there is a shift in physiology called ‘Inactivity Physiology’ [7]. Fat-burning enzymes, such as lipase, decrease substantially while sitting. An easy solution is to stand up every thirty minutes and stretch. Bonus points for doing body-weight exercises like push-ups and jumping jacks.

Posture is commonly underrated as a way to influence your own physiology. By performing ‘power-poses’ one can affect their current physiological state [8].

Increase IQ by Taking Care of the Basics

There’s a common human misconception that we need to do some esoteric trick hack to get smart or accomplish more in the day.

In reality, the most impactful changes are usually the most simple and basic.

When it comes to trying to become smarter, many will turn to drugs like piracetam when they don’t even have the basics in place.

Even if I was a fan of racetams, it would still make sense to improve performance by carrying out much more basic steps.

These more basic changes usually subtract rather than add. For example, if you want more time for being productive first think about all that time you can save by reducing TV, Facebook, etc…

If you want to be healthier, first think about what you can reduce in your diet before you start popping pills; reducing calories by 20% is probably more powerful than any drug or supplement.

Reducing excess carbs, protein, and fat is likewise a good idea, which can be accomplished by just reducing calories.

You can probably improve your intelligence by doing this more than any other single method.

Make sure you don’t have chronic issues

Taking care of the basics means if you want to become smarter it’s wisest to first make sure and fix any serious or chronic issues such as chronic inflammation, which will make you more fatigued in the day. You will be less motivated and your mind will not work as well.

In this paradigm, you’ll be at peak performance or close to it the whole day, but your maximum level cognition won’t necessarily improve by much.

I’ve tried all kinds of cognitive enhancers and they either don’t work, cause brain fog or cause a certain mental instability where sometimes you’re on and other times you bomb.

Most of them just weren’t worth it. With that said, many of them are, but people need to address the basics first.

There are 3 main disturbances of mental performance

Problems with blood sugar regulation/insulin resistance

Test: Do you feel tired or lethargic after carbs? If yes, you likely have a degree of insulin resistance. Check out the causes of insulin resistance.

Most people have some degree of insulin resistance, especially if they are over 40.

Not handling glucose properly will cause hypoglycemia, which I can say from all the research I’ve read and my personal experience that it wreaks havoc on the brain and causes all kinds of cognitive illnesses.

The best way to deal with insulin resistance is by having the right kind of diet for this condition. See The Resistant Starch Diet that I have created.

Getting rid of insulin resistance is critical for performing optimally, which is why I made a separate post that addresses IR and solutions to overcome it.

Becoming less insulin resistant is taking care of the low hanging fruit, so don’t neglect this.


Do you get pains, aches or swelling? If yes, you likely have an inflammatory/autoimmune issue.

Chronic inflammation could take a serious toll on your performance.

When I had even low levels of chronic inflammation, I needed more sleep, my brain didn’t function that well, I’d get worn out more easily and there was a host of downstream events that seriously hampered me from achieving my true potential.

Later on, I realized this was a result of inflammation-inhibiting orexin neurons, besides the other damage, it was causing.

People need to get this under control before they start doing anything else.

Inflammation can be caused by a bad diet, food or chemical sensitivities, pathogens, injuries, gut permeability, toxins, etc.

It’s best to take care of the possible causes before you start with anti-inflammatory substances.

Start with taking care of food sensitivities and gut permeability.

Also, as always, a good diet and lifestyle is a must.

The same general tips for dealing with insulin resistance are relevant in tamping down inflammation.

With that said, if an individual still has inflammation for whatever reason, extra measures will need to be taken.

The most basic is to include lots of spices in your food. For extra support, I’ve made a core list to dampen inflammation.

I’ve noticed that when I had inflammation I was much more sensitive to fatigue from glucose.

If I stray from my diet and don’t take supplements to make up for it, I’ll get inflammation and be more sensitive to glucose-induced fatigue – as in, a lower dose of glucose will cause fatigue (I experiment with dextrose, which is pure glucose).

So not only is inflammation an independent cause of fatigue, but I think there’s a negative synergism going on, where inflammation and glucose conspire to make you more tired than the addition of each of them.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Do you feel like you want to sit down after eating foods with principally saturated fat like butter? Then it’s likely your mitochondria isn’t up to par.

Mitochondrial breakdown is natural and part of the aging process.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t fight it.

Mitochondrial breakdown is at the heart of almost every chronic disease I’ve researched.

Some disorders, like depression, wouldn’t seem to have anything to do with mitochondria breakdown, but it does.

Fixing your mitochondria is so basic to improving your abilities that this should really be listed as number one.

I listed this last, however, since inflammation and insulin resistance lead to mitochondrial breakdown, so these causes must be taken away before you start fixing your mitochondria.

Once you’ve taken away the causes then you can start to rebuild your mitochondria and get on your way to becoming a new person.

Fighting inflammation

Lifestyle to fight inflammation

The four most critical lifestyle changes that reduce inflammation are

Foods to fight inflammation

These are the top foods that I’ve found combat inflammation the best

  • Cod liver – this is tasty. You should replace calories and other fats with this. This should be your go-to meal, not fast food.
  • A veggie juice, with leafy greens, celery and cucumbers can really give the brain a boost.
  • Resistant starch, in the form of semi-green bananas. Read the research on resistant starch. Jo’s resistant starch is also very good.
  • Dried Cranberries are also effective at improving brain function, and can mimic some supplements.
  • Good quality sourdough bread can really benefit the mitochondria. It contains lactate, which prevents hypoglycemia and builds your mitochondria. Not to be used if you are very sensitive to gluten or have celiacs.

Core supplements for inflammation

Out of all of the substances that I’ve experimented with and did research on, I’d recommend the following:

Protocol for mitochondrial enhancement


Some of the supplements above improve mitochondria, but these are more powerful when it comes to rebuilding mitochondria. These are all to be taken in the day.

If you’re a student and cramming, I don’t necessarily advise mitochondrial enhancers the day of the test. These are good for the day before.

  • PQQ – goes well with CoQ10
  • MitoQ
  • C60 – The best long-lasting mitochondrial enhancer. This will reduce your need for sleep.
  • Niagen NAD+ This is a new supplement, but my guess is it’s going to become more popular because of its powerful effect on improving mitochondria.
  • Gynostemma
  • Trans-Resveratrol and Leucine. Read about how these can be synergistic. Taken together, they are pretty powerful.

If you take these and don’t notice anything, then you either haven’t cultivated an awareness of what’s going on in your body or your mitochondria are in great shape, which means you probably haven’t experienced chronic inflammation for a long time.

If you are a vegan, creatine daily will make the biggest impact.

Equipment to increase performance

Exercise equipment

Interval exercise is the best mitochondrial enhancer, so don’t neglect that.

Exercise also brings down systemic inflammation in the body.

The exercises for mitochondrial health can be as simple as using a Pull-up bar or a Push-up bar (the only exercise I do these days, in addition to walking).

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)

After exercise, using LLLT is the most effective tool for increasing cognitive function, if done correctly.

See this post on how to use it and what the research says.

It works by lowering inflammation and improving mitochondrial function but also increases various neurotrophic factors in the brain.

Bright Light

If you aren’t getting sun or being outside for at least 3 hours in the day, then I highly recommend bright light therapy.

You’d be surprised by how stimulating it is cognitive.

It is mainly used for depression, but I think it can offer enhancement as well.

In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, bright light improved mood and enhanced sleep efficiency in people with major depressive disorder.

The study also mentions that night time cortisol levels decreased by a whopping 34% just by this one simple change.

I can attest to a better mood, better brain function and enhanced productivity even though I don’t have any disorder.

I suggest you get this lighting device – it’s the one I have. The reason I bought it is because it was used in a study I read about that used light as a mood enhancer. It works.

Light also increases BDNF and therefore is good for your memory.

If you work in an office and can’t get this one then I’d recommend a portable one.

If you aren’t getting any sun, it makes sense to also use a UVB light for 15 minutes, to reduce inflammation. Don’t overuse it.

Light is the single most powerful tool you can use to shape your circadian rhythm.

Red glasses

I use red glasses to entrain my circadian rhythm and to improve sleep.

I’ve tried probably 7 pairs of glasses to block the spectrum that blocks melatonin secretion.

These Glasses are the best and they don’t look bad. They’re cheap and effective. I wear them 2 hours before bed.

The red glasses really block out all light except red. If you need more visual flexibility, I suggest the orange glasses. You need to wear them for longer to produce melatonin, but they’re more useful when you need to see more colors.


Other disturbances of cognitive performance can be heavy metals, toxins, beta-amyloid, lipofuscin, etc…

The single most effective thing you can do in this arena is to drink filtered water.

I use a Berkey Filtration System for myself and recommend others do that as well.

If you drink a lot of water, as I do, it would be a good investment to get a Distiller (I use this as well).

Heavy metals and toxins are all around us, though. The best thing to “detox” is to eat broccoli sprouts.

These are rich in sulforaphane, which activates the body’s primary detox mechanisms (nrf2 transcription factor).

Studies use this chemical when trying to understand the effects of activating nrf2.

The most effective supplement to excrete heavy metals is Modified Citrus Pectin.

Kombucha is also very good since it’s loaded with gluconate, which binds to most metals.

Training the Mind to Focus and Filter out distractions

Many studies have been done on meditation, mindfulness, and N-back and showed improvements in one form of intelligence or another.

My belief is that the core driver of the enhancement of intelligence from these practices is the ability to ignore distractions and selectively focus.

Here’s a recent study that made big waves in the media:

People with higher IQs are slow to detect large background movements because their brains filter out non-essential information, say US researchers. In an initial study on 12 people, there was a 64% correlation between motion suppression and IQ scores. In this larger study on 53 people, a 71% correlation was found.

So we see there’s about a 70% correlation between the ability to selectively focus and IQ.

I rarely come across such large correlations in studies like these.

The best way to accomplish selective focus is through meditation, mindfulness, timed standardized test studying (like for the LSAT or SAT) and back.

These methods I have found train the mind to focus and filter out distractions, which should result in an IQ boost and increased productivity.

After Removing the Bad

Once you’ve changed your diet and lifestyle, only then do I suggest you try to proactively increase your cognition with supplements.

My personal notes

I got all of this information from studies directly but mostly didn’t link to it. All of the following supplements can be bought. Sorry about the abbreviations – they are my personal notes, after all.

Synaptic Plasticity increasers (Hippocampus)

Tea, Soy, Berries, Carnitine, Cocoa, FastingFish Oil/DHA+EPA, Mg, Zn, Longvida Curcumin, Berberine, Rehmannia, BM, Resveratrol, Saffron, Red Wine Polyphenols, other Polyphenols, Uridine, Sirt1 activators

Neurogenesis (Hippocampus)

Lithium, TestosteronePregnenolone, Apigenin, Uridine, Ashwagandha, Cocoa, GK, Tea/ECGC, Melatonin, Curcumin Flavanoids (citrus, tea, wine, cocoa), PC, Semax, Cerebrolysin

Neurite outgrowth/Axonal growth/Dendrite growth

Exercise, Rehmannia/Catalpol (Nogo-A inhibitor), Curcumin, LM, Apigenin, GSE/BBE, Huperzine, Natto, Red Sage, RSV, Royal JellyTheanine, Coffee (trigonelline),GinsengGL, Berberine, GKPropolis, Colostrum (colostrinin), Ashwagandha, LLLT, EleutheroForskolin… Aromatase inhibitors… NGF(+)->neurite outgrowth… Hominis placenta, Citicoline, Uridine, Pregnenolone, Adenosine [9], Hydergine.

Brain Circulation

Cr, Astragalus (Noticeable), Rehmannia (N), Cold showers (N), Garlic (N), Reishi (N), BBE/PBE/GSE, Amla, ACV, Longvida Curcumin, Carnitine, Ceylon CinnamonGinger, Rosemary, PC, Ginseng, Theanine, NAC, Resveratrol, Nitrates (Beets, leafy greens), Leuc+RSV, Citrulline.

Long Term Potentiation (LTP)

Fasting, Berberine, Stabilized R-Lipoic Acid, Melatonin, OLE (Luteolin), P ginseng, Ashwagandha, Fisetin, Glycine, Artichoke (Luteolin), Forskolin, Taurine.

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen flipped the script on conventional and alternative medicine…and it worked. Growing up, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety, and other issues that were poorly understood in traditional healthcare. Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a learning journey to decode his DNA and track his biomarkers in search of better health. Through this personalized approach, he discovered his genetic weaknesses and was able to optimize his health 10X better than he ever thought was possible. Based on his own health success, he went on to found SelfDecode, the world’s first direct-to-consumer DNA analyzer & precision health tool that utilizes AI-driven polygenic risk scoring to produce accurate insights and health recommendations. Today, SelfDecode has helped over 100,000 people understand how to get healthier using their DNA and labs.
Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, with a mission of empowering people to take advantage of the precision health revolution and uncover insights from their DNA and biomarkers so that we can all feel great all of the time.


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