IQ booster pills on the way?

Many researchers are now involved in the evaluation of ways to halt the effects of ageing. In terms of IQ and cognitive ability, I have written extensively on how General Intelligence (or G) can be decomposed into two broad types of intelligence: (1) fluid intelligence (Gf), which is akin to raw processing power of the brain and our ability to solve novel problems; and (2) crystallized intelligence (Gc), which is related to our ability to absorb and use verbal and general knowledge, and is more closely related to one’s formal education.

As one might expect, the effects of ageing on cognitive ability are not good. What we know from the academic literature on the subject is that fluid IQ tends to peak in our mid 20s and starts declining (and fairly steeply) thereafter. The news is a little bit more positive in respect of crystallized intelligence. That is, Gc peaks in our 50s, and begins a gradual decline thereafter. IQ booster pills or a pill that could end this decline would be the holy grail of cognitive ability preservation for a globally ageing population.

Surmising the situation, fluid intelligence (Gf) includes several sub-components of cognitive ability including: (i) processing speed (Gs); (ii) visualization (Gv) and (iii) short-term memory / working memory (Gsm).

One of the reasons why Fluid intelligence diminishes with age is that older people will see their processing speed, visualization and working memory deteriorate.

Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, can peak much later if older people carry on reading and learning.

IQ booster pills on the way?

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the Gladstone Institutes had been investigating ways to stifle the effects and the role of ageing of klotho, a protein which is encoded by the gene known as KL. It had been discovered that a particular version of the gene, called KL-VS (believed to be present in 20% of human beings), promotes longevity. KL-VS had been shown to increase longevity by decreasing age-related heart disease. But when the researchers turned their attention to the effects of KL-VS on cognitive ability or IQ, they found that KL-VS did not curb the decline (gravity is inevitable), as they had hoped, but instead they found that KL-VS did boost IQ by up to 6 points, regardless of age. If this result is confirmed by the research community, KL-VS will be the strongest IQ booster and explanatory factor of genetic IQ variation ever discovered. It is believed that KL-VS could explain as much as 3% of the total variation in human IQ. Although 3% may sound low, this number is multiples greater than other genes believed to explain cognitive ability which had been discovered previously. This finding is also significant as It could mean that an IQ boosting pill could be on the way.

The finding has now been confirmed in mice and other evaluations are ongoing. The applications are compelling: pharma companies might be able to make this into an IQ booster pill format which could help boost the IQ of people who do not have the KL-VS variant of the gene. This would be the IQ booster breakthrough of the Century, and the enable some of us to sharpen our senses.

To test your fluid intelligence, click here.