There are many different kinds of intelligent. Are you book smart? Street smart? Good at school and test-taking smart? Good at schmoozing your way out of deadlines and into jobs smart? Better at writing or math?
One new intelligence test, put online today by New Scientist and the Discovery Channel, claims to be the best test of overall smarts. The test was designed by neuropsychologist Adrian Owen to test 12 different “pillars” of wisdom, and to work every part of your mind.
From Owen’s article about the test for New Scientist:
Like many researchers before us, we began by looking for the smallest number of tests that could cover the broadest range of cognitive skills that are believed to contribute to intelligence, from memory to planning.
But we went one step further. Thanks to recent work with brain scanners, we could make sure that the tests involved as much of the brain as possible – from the outer layers, responsible for higher thought, to deeper-lying structures such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory.
As an intrepid blogger, I went ahead and took the test. Some of the exercises resembled classic games like “Memory” (to test paired associates learning, you’re asked to remember what items are hidden where) and “Simon” (to test working memory, you have to remember sequences). Others are more similar to cognitive psychology tests like the Stroop test (which tests focused attention), and there are also some puzzle-solving tests (to test your ability to plan for the future).
The 12 tests are designed to test 12 different aspects of working memory, reasoning, focus, and planning. I did the worst on the “verbal working memory” test, which was reading a string of numbers and typing it in from memory. This actually makes sense, because I’ve always known myself to be a physical learner, and highlight or write down everything I hear that I need to remember. I wonder if there is a correlation there?
You can only take the test once, so make sure to do some mental push-ups first before diving in. Then come back here and tell us what you thought! Also, visit www.cambridgebrainsciences.com to play additional games, to train your brain, and to test your 12 pillars.
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Image: Flickr/B Rosen
Does simple arithmetic give you sweaty palms? Do you always show up late for appointments? Is it a nightmare to figure out the bill at restaurants? If so, you may have dyscalculia, sort of the mathematical version of dyslexia. People with dyscalculia often excel at languages or visual arts, but can barely pass middle school math. They have trouble with numerical concepts—specifically, with associating numerical quantities with their abstract representations.
Although it’s estimated that about five percent of people have dyscalculia, researchers disagree as to the cause of the disorder. The debate boils down to whether number sense is an innate or learned trait in humans. Some argue that we are born with the ability to understand exact numbers. Even babies, for example, will stare longer when they are shown two dolls moving behind a screen and then three dolls coming out, indicating they were expecting a different numerical outcome.
Earlier this month we wrote that alliteration can help you maintain your memory, and now it seems that patterns are also good for those whose brains are just developing.
Babies’ brains are the most active when they hear words with repeated syllables, according to Judit Gervain from the University of British Columbia, and that my help to explain why their first words are often words like “mama” or “papa.”
We sometimes hear that the solution to America’s struggling public schools is to raise the entrance standards for teachers so that only the best candidates get hired. But according to a study by MIT and University of Chicago economists, all the extra tests and paperwork are having the opposite effect—rather than drawing good applicants, they’re driving qualified ones away.
The problem, says MIT economist Joshua Angrist, is that teachers are forced to jump through a lot of hoops in order to land a job that doesn’t pay very well. As part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure, he says, Massachusetts teachers have to pass tests in every subject area, not just their own, but the test are available only six times a year. And states are free to set their own standards for teacher certification, so if a teacher moves they might have to endure the whole process again.
For more than 40 years, scientists have known that honeybees communicate with one another through the language of dance. One bee flies around in loops and wags its rear end in patterns that can tell other members of the hive where to find food. Honeybees in different parts of the world perform the dance a little differently, according to a team of Australian, German, and Chinese researchers. And now the scientists say they’ve discovered that bees can even learn the dance language of their cousins from another continent.
The researchers carefully examined an Asian species and a European species of honeybee separately to determine that they used different “dialects” of the dance—in other words, they sent the same messages with slightly different dance moves. Then the scientists placed the two groups together for as long as 50 days, and after only a few tries, the European and Asian bees learned to communicate. The first time Asian worker bees watched a European bee dance, they didn’t fly far enough toward the food because the two species communicate distance differently. But the second time, researchers say, most Asian workers had learned the European bee language and found the food source right away.
Scientists have taught monkeys to control a robotic arm with their thoughts. No, the primates aren’t telekinetic—they have computerized brain implants—but their newfound ability is one of the most impressive examples yet of linking brains to machines.
The research team, led by Andrew Schwartz from the University of Pittsburgh, used two macaques in their study. They planted a tiny computer grid over each primate’s motor cortex, an area of the brain that normally controls the monkey’s arm movement. Then they mounted the robotic appendage, complete with elbow and shoulder joints and a claw for grabbing, on each animal’s shoulder where its normal arm is attached. The computerized implant would read the monkeys’ minds—or rather, it would pick up on their motor neurons firing—and translate those electrical impulses into the appropriate maneuver in the machine.
We here at DiscoBlog would like to introduce the Weekly Science Blog Roundup, in which we bring you the best news from around the sci-blogosphere. Here are some links for this week:
• A group of Japanese researchers discovers that daisies may contain a chemical cocktail that lowers triglycerides in mice. Watch for The Daisy Diet to hit shelves soon.
• If Tom Cruise came out, would it put a dent in homophobia? Perhaps, according to new research showing that exposure to celebrities identified as gay or lesbian decreased the test subjects’ bias.
• Finnish glass plant specializes in making drinking glasses out of recycled beer bottles. The real trick? They’ve never been crushed.
• Discovery of ancient human feces in Oregon cave results in samples of the oldest DNA ever found in the Americas.
• Five of the biggest technological inventions in the history of music.