Brain Enhancement Tests

Brain enhancement, if you look it up, is most often the practice of 'souping up your brain' with the aid of chemical stimulation. Drugs, in other words. Sometimes legal, sometimes not.

Before getting into it more fully, however, I must first, seemingly randomly, point out that I love coffee for the following three reasons...

* It warms me up on cold evenings.

* It's something to drink, that's not 'a drink', when I'm wishing to be sociable.

* It helps me stay awake some nights when I'm needing to.

Did you notice that none of my three points about 'why I love coffee' was because I love coffee? It's because I don't love coffee. It's useful, but I don't drink it often, and have never acquired that much of a taste for it. That said, I would be a hypocrite and a liar if I were to say that I only ever exercise my brain WITHOUT the use of stimulants, because sometimes coffee is simply the easiest and quickest way to gain a sudden pick-me-up. But, as with everything in life, it's about balance.

Now the brain is an absolutely amazing tool, and there are many ways to sharpen it. Below are the more extreme ways, so while I mention them, it will only be to provide you with the facts regarding how some people are choosing to push their brain to work as well as it can work for them. Also, I'll be discussing it in a mostly prejudiced manner, but others out there could quite probably just as easily argue the case of 'brain enhancement drugs' in a very biased manner.

Brain Enhancement With Drugs

Although being designed for those with ADD and narcolepsy disorders, stimulants such as Adderall and Provigil provide mostly anyone with bouts of alertness and wakefulness; therefore, in stressful and busy times, these drugs can be very tempting to consume. And when pill-popping is for the purpose of ultimately being able to learn new things and complete important projects, etc, it's hard to dismiss this practice as being entirely wrong. In fact, the alternative suggestions I'll provide for 'brain enhancement' might never prove to be as adequate as if you were to rather take certain drugs such as the above-mentioned ones. And because we're living in a world where many people are taking many drugs (including aspirins and vitamins and the myriad of other drugs out there designed with mostly good intentions in mind) maybe this is just the way of the world today. That said, I believe drugs should AT LEAST be used with a great deal of forethought...

* Do I absolutely need to have whatever this drug is providing me with?

* Is there another way of getting me to this point without having to take this drug?

* Could this become a habit for me, or am I truly only needing this drug 'for now'?

... etc.

Getting back to the topic of 'brain enhancement drugs' specifically though: many young academics would argue that if you didn't use chemicals to help you through your long nights of grafting, it would be crazy because your competition would most likely be using drugs themselves, and soon YOU would be no competition for them anymore. This might be the case, therefore just because I occasionally go so far as to only drink coffee for mental stimulation, that's simply because, from my perspective, that's all I need right now. But if my living and working situation was of another nature, I'd perhaps be writing a totally different article to this one at this point in time.

But know that people who use the common sorts of brain enhancement drugs have often been said to have had the side effects of being overly emotional in certain negative respects... easily provoked, specifically. Further to this, they are sometimes 'hyper-focused' and can have extreme downers as a result of having such prior 'uppers'.

Brain Enhancement Without Drugs

After not having studied for roughly a decade, I went back to school and found that the most valuable gain I had acquired in obtaining a BA is that my memory had become vastly better than it had been in years. Maybe it had even become better than it had ever been! Ironically, I can't unfortunately 'remember' how good my memory was though to say this for sure. But it was enlightening to find that while age slowly degrades all things, we can still at least slow certain breakdowns down, if not reverse certain degradations in quite noticeable manners, even if not in all respects. I firmly believe, however, that your brain becomes stronger not just when you exercise it but also when - in exercising it - it realises that it needs to be stronger, so pushes itself more-so than it otherwise might. This is totally my own theory though, but - in short - I believe you basically 'tell' your brain that you have certain needs, then it works at providing you with those needs and more. Kind of like supply and demand. But you can't literally sit down and tell your brain what needs you have; you tell your brain what you want by showing it you want it to be more generally able by exercising it. For some reason, it reminds me of the famous line in the movie Field of Dreams... "If you build it, he will come." But how do you 'build' your brain? How do you make yourself more focused, more alert, more creative, and more able to stay more focused and alert and creative for longer periods of time?

You push the limits of your thinking, you expose yourself to foreign ideas, and you do this often. Simply put.

You can also meditate (but that's another article) and you can eat the right sorts of foods (again... another article).

But before getting to the brain enhancement games I have lined up for you (or exercises or tests or whatever else you might regard them mostly as being) let me interest your brain for a few moments with interesting facts about 'the brain'. While these facts have been quoted fairly often elsewhere on the Internet, I've added my own personal thoughts to the few I mention, and some of them will have to do with the brain enhancement games I'll get to in the concluding section of this article.

The Facts

It amazes me that we don't see with our eyes, and we don't smell with our noses, and we don't taste with our tongue, and so on and so forth.

We see with our brain, we smell with our brain, we taste with our brain.

Our brain simply uses our eyes and our noses and our tongues to interpret incoming data in different sensory ways. It's like when you hit a nail with a hammer. In truth, you are not hitting a nail with a HAMMER. YOU are hitting the nail, and you're doing this by using the hammer to hit it with. It's a slight difference, but it's an important one because it shows that ULTIMATELY the brain is the most important part of your body because this is where everything happens. For those people who are trying to 'find themselves', all they have to do is cut open their scalp and look inside... that's where they are! That's where you are. That's where we all are. We live and think and feel inside of our brains! What I specifically mean is that an item such as your foot is a part of you, but it's not you. If it gets removed, you will still be yourself, just a more upset version of yourself. But if your brain gets removed, then you are no longer you, because you are suddenly nobody... 'you' are gone. And if your brain is manipulated with electricity or scalpels or chemicals (or by lack of oxygen) 'you' are changed, even if only for a temporary time. That said... some facts about this most important part of your self...

* The old adage of us humans only using 10% of our brain is not true. Every part of the brain has a known function.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: I mention this fact first because it is possibly the most common misconception that people tell each other when discussing the human brain. We do not use only 10% of our brain, and I urge you to read more fully about this matter, at a later stage, at the Snopes website (the link is provided at the bottom of this page in the References section) if you want a more thorough understanding of why this is a 'false fact' and where this myth most likely perpetuated from.

* Your brain uses less power than your refrigerator light... the brain uses 12 watts of power. Over the course of a day, your brain uses the amount of energy contained in two large bananas. Curiously, even though the brain is very efficient, it's an energy hog. It is only 3% of the body's weight, but consumes 17% of the body's total energy. Most of its energy costs go into maintenance; the added cost of thinking hard is barely noticeable.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: This fact tells me you must therefore eat well and not worry about thinking too hard. Your brain can easily handle however hard you try to push it. Don't push it for too long though, as that is another matter altogether.

* A study of one million students in New York showed that students who ate lunches that did not include artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes did 14% better on IQ tests than students who ate lunches with these additives.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: Certain chemicals we consume are brain 'dehancement' drugs.

* The connection between body and mind is a strong one. One estimate is that between 50 - 70% of visits to the doctor for physical ailments are attributed to psychological factors.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: This fact reminds me of something a famous psychiatrist - Dr Murray Banks - once said: "Maybe you're already happy and you just don't know it." This little sentence was one of the most long-lasting thoughts I ever mulled over when I was a child because if it was true - and I reasoned that it probably was - then so many people were living the wrong way - not happily - and for NO good reason.

* Each time we blink, our brain kicks in and keeps things illuminated so the whole world doesn’t go dark each time we blink (about 20,000 times a day).
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: Facts like this constantly surprise me because it just goes to show that we are almost all automatically doing so many things, every day, that we're not even conscious about.

* Some research shows that humans carry genes that help protect the brain from prion diseases, or diseases contracted through eating human flesh, leading medical experts to believe that ancient humans may have eaten other humans.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: If the supposition in regards to this fact is true (that we were once cannibals, in other words) then I wonder if many other species have been cannibals at some point in their evolution also. It does always interest me that carnivores don't generally have a taste for (or at least a desire to taste) the flesh of their own kind. You would think that meat is meat. The brain, however, seems to make us think differently. And the reasons are probably simple... while killing others to eat them may ensure our own survival, killing our own kind to eat them will eventually lead to the extermination of our own species. Logically, it makes perfect sense!

* Talking on your mobile phone in a noisy place can be difficult. Your mobile makes the brain's task harder by feeding sounds from the room you're in through its circuitry and mixing them with the sound it gets from the other phone. This makes it a harder problem for your brain to solve because your friend's transmitted voice and the room noise are tinny and mixed together in one source. Cover the mouthpiece when you're trying to hear your caller and you'll stop the mixing of sounds.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: How often do we unintentionally make our brains work harder than they might naturally otherwise work? Also, to work your brain, perhaps you should actually occasionally try and force it to filter out sounds by itself instead of covering the mouthpiece of your phone in order to aid it. The choice, of course, is yours to ponder over.

* The neocortex makes up about 76% of the human brain and is responsible for language and consciousness.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: Because communication, thought, and exercising your own self-awareness is so important, therefore, certain of my brain enhancement tests will be specific to these topics... Communication, Thought, and Self-Awareness.

* Excessive stress has shown to 'alter brain cells, brain structure and brain function.'
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: Because this is the case, I have created a game to help deal with stress.

* There is a class of people known as supertasters who not only have more taste buds on the tongue, but whose brain is more sensitive to the tastes of foods and drinks. In fact, they can detect some flavors that others cannot.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: Because the senses of taste and smell are so often not tested, I have developed a brain enhancement game whereby you'll use your faculties of taste to help strengthen your brain.

* Memory is formed by associations, so if you want help remembering things, create associations for yourself.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: Associations. Patterns. Predicting the future based on your knowledge of the past. This is one of the most valuable tools we have as a species, and I've created a brain enhancement game that will also help strengthen this aspect of the brain.

* Juggling has shown to change the brain in as little as seven days. The study indicates that learning new things helps the brain to change very quickly. Although 'practice may make perfect', it appears that learning new things is best for changing the brain.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: Exposure to what's new is VITAL to developing a strong intellect. Once more, I've created a brain enhancement test dealing with this topic also.

* The average number of thoughts that humans are believed to experience each day is 70,000.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: We miss opportunities all the time to exercise our brains! A brain enhancement game I have created to take advantage of how often we think every day is included in this article.

* Humour is hard to define, but we know it when we see it. One theory suggests that humour consists of a surprise - we don't end up where we thought we were going - followed by a reinterpretation of what came earlier to make it fit the new perspective... To make it a joke instead of a logic puzzle, the result needs to be a coherent story that isn't strictly sensible in everyday terms.
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING THIS FACT: Another brain enhancement test I've created relates to this matter of surprise endings. We all love twists, because they make us laugh, but also because they shock us or scare us, they 'blow our minds', or they make you realise another way of looking or dealing with something.

And now, the point of this article: the games, the tests, the exercises...

...The Fun!

Let's look at stretching your brain by challenging and exciting it!

1) HAVE AN ARGUMENT WITH YOURSELF. No, seriously. Okay, maybe the word 'argument' isn't exactly correct. What I mean is that you should think of a topic that's at least moderately debatable, then begin debating with yourself on said topic. It doesn't matter what the topic is, it doesn't matter how crazy the topic might be, it doesn't matter if you want to imagine yourself as two people or more in said debate, but perhaps you should choose something you don't feel particularly for or against to begin with. This might give the one 'you' more advantage over the other 'you'/ 'yous'. Most importantly though, while you're defending one point of a debate, focus entirely on that perspective... truly strive to give both the best retort to your other 'self' and the best reasoning for why you're correct in the stance you're coming from. Like many of the games in this article, this one is not about the end result. Whether 'you' win or 'you' win is irrelevant. This game is about the steps you will take in getting to a point (whatever it may be) and pushing your thinking as far as you can in one direction, then switching about to push your thinking as far as you can in the other direction. To push a debate along in the most successful possible manner though, I recommend you keep notes on points that each of your 'sides' present in lieu of the debate. A few fun debates you can have are...

* Would you rather be the most unimaginative person in the world (but born into an incredibly wealthy and respected family) or the most imaginative person in the world (but born into incredible poverty)?

* Would the invention of Time-travel be to the benefit of mankind or not?

* Should the world go vegetarian or should we actually all be eating a diet of more meat?

* Who is the funniest comedian of all time?

* Democracy, communism, autocracy, or aristocracy?

2) HOW WOULD IT END IF YOU WERE THE MAIN CHARACTER? There are two parts to this game.

i - Write out a character description of yourself as honestly as you can (or have friends write out character descriptions of you, then look at the common denominators and take those as the character description of yourself) and try to make sure that for every positive aspect you list about yourself, you also have a negative point to make about your character (or vice versa). Keep it balanced, in other words.

ii - Keeping this character description in front of you (or simply 'in mind') proceed to imagine a story (from a movie or book perhaps) that you like, but imagine yourself as the main character in the story, and try to truly imagine how it would unfold differently based on what you would do differently. How would you approach problems based on your own logic and feelings? Would the story resolve itself in a more satisfying manner, or a quicker manner, if you were the main character? Would it become a totally different sort of story? Think about it, but based on the character description you have first created of yourself.

3) RE-IMAGINE YOUR LIFE BY EXCLUDING JUST ONE PERSON. Think about the people in your life who were the biggest influences on you, then try and re-imagine how your life might have been different if one of these people had never been in your life. How might your life have been better or worse (or both) without them? And would it have changed your character drastically or only mildly? Do you think you would've come to be exactly as you are anyway, regardless of them; and if so, then how so? In a similar vein, another game you could play is this... re-imagine the world by taking just one element away from it (or add one element to it) and wonder how many ramifications there would be as a result. What would the world be like if we had no cars, or if the colour blue didn't exist, or if there was no swearing, etc?

4) PUT SOMEBODY ELSE INTO YOUR SHOES. If you're experiencing stress in you life, play this game. Try to think of at least three people in your life (or even characters from television programs, if you wish) who you see as being very intelligent problem solvers. The more different these people/ characters are, the better. Then imagine them in your life, with your own current stress (or stresses) and try to envision how they might deal with the problems in your life as though your problems were actually their problems. By doing this, you'll be making your own problem ALMOST an entirely objective one, but also one you can try and deal with through a person/ character who you think is very adequate in dealing with issues. Once you have thought about this quite thoroughly, carefully think of which person/ character in your mind dealt with your problem in the most pleasing fashion. Could you successfully emulate this same way of dealing with your own problem? If not, could you successfully emulate the second or third character's solution to dealing with your problem?

5) WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS? This is a simple game and can be played in many ways. Basically you (or you and a group of friends) have to try and determine what the ingredients in a certain dish are. You can have a friend make you (or you and a group of friends) a meal, then eat it, trying to ascertain what the ingredients are by taste and textures, etc; you could go to a restaurant (perhaps a restaurant that serves exotic foods) with a friend, and have your friend order something for you that they can see the ingredients of, then try and determine what the ingredients are; or - if you're more daring - you could go to a restaurant and play the same game by asking the chef (via the waiter, of course) to cook you a surprise meal, and play the game with him/ her. Make sure that if you have any allergies to anything, you let the person who is cooking you a meal know this.

6) WHAT'S THE SIMILARITY BETWEEN... This is a game which is the opposite of those 'what's the difference between...' jokes. In this game, take any two items (or people) and try and find the similarities between them. If you use items, then obviously the more different the items are, the harder the game will be. You could also play this game in a totally random fashion by finding ten words in the dictionary, writing them down on small pieces of paper, putting the pieces of paper upside-down, shuffling the papers up, then choosing your first pair of words (and so on) to find the similarities between. The more similarities you find between two items, the harder the game will obviously become. So only quit this exercise when you absolutely cannot continue finding similarities between items anymore.

7) LIKE SOMETHING YOU DON'T USUALLY LIKE. This, in my opinion, is very possibly the best brain enhancement game I can advise you to play because you'll wind up exercising your thinking skills without even trying, and very possibly more so than with most of the other brain enhancement games on this page. If you like to read a certain genre of book, then read another genre of book that you normally never would. If you don't read books, but enjoy reading newspapers, then perhaps read another type of news digest that offers you totally different information on the world to what you normally enjoy reading about. If you like a certain type of movie, then watch a type of movie that you normally never would. Etc. There are two very important elements to playing this game successfully, however...

i - Don't simply expose yourself to something totally new; first ask knowledgeable people - in regards to the topic - what suggestions they might give you to find the best quality in this new venture you're taking. If you normally only listen to classical music, but decide you will now listen to some heavy metal, then find out what people rate highly in this category instead of just jumping in. Quality is always important.

ii - Don't expose yourself to something totally new for JUST a day. Give something a long enough time for you to start appreciating it, or understanding how somebody else might appreciate it.

8) PAY MORE ATTENTION TO YOURSELF. Quite a lot of what we say and think everyday is actually very interesting. Therefore here is a brain enhancement game that you will know, but with a twist. Keep a diary (even if it's only a notepad file on your mobile phone), but make sure this is a diary not concerning what you do, but rather 'what you think or sometimes say that might be particularly witty or intelligent or creative'. Here's the twist though... write as much in this 'diary' as you can, and at the end of the week, read through all that you wrote DOWN or typed OUT and keep only the finest ten items from the list every week. If you write down hundreds of such items every week, then perhaps keep twenty ideas at a time. Use your initiative. After two or three months, read through this short list of ideas and you'll quite likely be amazed at how inspired you've been in the past, which will hopefully inspire you to continue being inspired! Everything initially originates from thoughts, yet millions are lost every day because people don't realise the value of this exceptionally unique human ability. So be different to the majority of other people. Take advantage of your brain!

9) INTERVIEW YOURSELF. Create a generic interview list of questions (that you see on talk show interviews or that you Google or that your friends might suggest to you) then ask yourself these questions as though you were being filmed on a television show in front of millions of viewers. Sometimes we think we know ourselves, but often we don't (or we don't very accurately know ourselves, at least).

10) WHAT YOU LIKE IS RUBBISH. Think of your favorite famous person (he/ she could be a musician or a great mind from history) and then try to imagine this person in a totally different light. Why are they actually not talented? Why were they actually foolish? If you want, you can also think of a favorite subject of yours (or type of entertainment) then do the same thing as previously suggested in this point. If you love reading comics, then think of reasons why comics are actually a terrible medium of entertainment. To really stretch your brain though, go onto the Internet and type out 'Why ***** is terrible' or something to this effect. You'll be amazed at what you find, and sometimes it's thoroughly interesting reading about other people's thoughts on the matter. It will definitely get you to thinking, as well as most likely getting you quite worked up too.

11) UNCLICHÉ THE CLICHÉ IN A CLICHÉ. Ask yourself those common cliché questions that you often hear, but first make them more interesting. For example...

* What would you do if you only had FIVE MINUTES left to live?

* If there were five people you would HATE to speak to, who would they be and why? Alternatively, you could also ask yourself 'If you could make any five people in history not exist, who would they be and why?' These could be friends, family, famous figures in history (hopefully not Hitler though, because that would be too obvious), etc.

* If you were ABSOLUTELY BROKE (as opposed to 'if you were to win a million dollars'), out of a job, about to lose your home, etc, what would you do?

12) OVERTHINK A SITUATION. Analyse a simple sentence in a complex and creative way for this brain enhancement game, and know that the point of this exercise is not about being right, it's about using a little to get a lot. In other words: instead of using a lot to get a little (summing up the information from a long encyclopedia entry, for example) try to expand one short sentence into a paragraph or a chapter or a book! As an example, I might take the sentence 'Mary had a little lamb' and focus solely on this as my starting point. I could then ask myself questions about this sentence, think of the most logical answers that come as a result of these questions, and eventually have something much bigger than just the simple sentence I began with... 'Who is Mary? Why does she have a little lamb and is this important? Does she have any other animals and is the lamb a pet? Etc.'

13) DON'T SEE SOMETHING MERELY AS IT IS. Take an object (an elastic band, a piece of paper, anything) and try to imagine all of the possible uses for it, no matter how absurd they might be. The more simple your object, the more uses you'll most likely come up with for it. As an example, if you were to use 'a piece of string' for this exercise, you might imagine possible uses for it as being... to pull things along with, to close things up with, to use as a shoelace, to use as a skipping rope, to hang yourself with, to use as a belt, etc.

14) IF IT HAD BEEN YOUR BRAINCHILD. For this brain enhancement game, you'll have to be strict with yourself. Basically, rent out a movie that you've never seen before, then force yourself to stop it halfway through - or even a short while before it ends - and think about where it's going. Brainstorm how it could end in the most exciting, satisfying, and logical way. You could also do this with a book, of course. Any story will do, but obviously certain genres of stories will work better than others. Romantic comedies, for instance, almost always end off well with the couple 'getting together' in the end. But strange science fiction movies might be harder to guess at how they'll end, especially science fiction movies that are made outside of Hollywood.

15) THE MAKE A GAME GAME. I've left this idea for last because it's not really an idea as much as it is a suggestion. You see, you will DEFINITELY stretch and strengthen your brain in trying to make a game that you can play on your own (if you wish to) and in almost any situation, as I've done so in the games above that I created. And if I can do it, then so can you. After-all, why would my brain be any better than yours? To answer that, you might wish to reread this article for a start.

Just kidding!


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