The Pursuit of a Better Brain


In the critically acclaimed Hollywood movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness” – a biopic on Chris Gardener, the famous investor, inspirational speaker and author - there is a scene where the protagonist solves the Rubik’s Cube during a cab ride.

While sharing a ride with an enterprising stockbroker from a prestigious firm, Chris Gardener (played by veteran actor Will Smith) notices the man struggling with a Rubik’s Cube and offers to solve it. Apparently, Gardener solves the Cube before they reach the destination, impresses the man, lands a position as a trainee in the company and goes on to create history!

Though the cab scene was pure fiction and added on to the real story, it is interesting to see how the makers of the movie decided to incorporate Rubik Cube into the storyline. There are previous scenes where the character is shown fiddling with the Cube, which implicates a habit. How the problem-solving habit is attributed to the visionary’s character is reflective of the fact that brain games could be associated with a persevering and intelligent persona.

Can brain power be maximised?

The question is do mind-games like Chess or Rubik Cube render a higher intelligence quotient? Or is it just that intelligent people play them? IQ or intelligence Quotient is the measure of one’s mental agility or comprehensive speed. While one’s IQ is believed to be inherited and determined by genetic factors, it has also been scientifically proven how ‘tweaking’ your brain the right way can help it perform better. Better coaching creates better students!

Does that give hope to some of those young brains which appear dormant? Is it possible to trigger them back to action with challenging mind games and puzzles? Could we nurture the brain out of its genetic nature?  

Yes, says Jim Kwik, “the boy with a broken brain” who went on to become one of the top Brain Coaches in the world, training Hollywood stars and multi-millionaires. “No matter your age, background, or level of education, you can learn new ways to use your brain.

Re-programming the brain

British-American psychologist Raymond Cattle identified and categorised two types of intelligence – Fluid and Crystallized. Fluid intelligence uses logic to solve problems and to handle unfamiliar situations while Crystallized intelligence helps you to apply stored knowledge and the wisdom of experience as life progresses. Mind games boost both types of intelligence; activating the problem-solving qualities as well as the learning and progressing process. Complex mental games like Chess or Rubik Cube push and pull your grey matter in both ways thus altering the set formulas within your mental framework.

In a study by Dr. Susanne Jaggi at the University of Michigan on boosting memory power using Dual-N-back games, players who regularly “exercised” their brains with memory games for at least 25 minutes every day were found to have a 4-point increase in their IQ score.

Flexing the mental muscles

In weight training, there comes a point where the initial discomfort of stretching the muscles cease and you discover that a 20 pounds barbell Is no longer a nightmare! Your muscles adapt to the new friction and when they do, you increase the reps or the weights! Our brains work the same way.

Mastering a new skill could possibly cause you to soon slip into a comfortable pattern. You engage the same mental muscles over and over again mastering a particular technique that sooner or later the mind stops getting curious or involved! It goes on to an auto-pilot mode and stays passive. Hence the need to find ways to constantly stimulate our brains in the best challenging means.

Logic-driven games like Chess or Rubik’s Cube challenge the created patterns and provoke your mind to think differently. The multi-approach way of winning or navigating, triggers one’s imagination. New hurdles and ever-changing patterns stop you from cooling your heels too often and engage your brain to find new solutions and discover better ideas. This helps to stretch your mental muscles and develop them for further challenges.