If you eat enough fish and do enough crossword puzzles, it’ll make you smarter, right? Not exactly. Let’s clear up a few myths and misunderstandings about increasing your brainpower:

  • Certain foods make you smarter. Not true. But they can make your brain healthier. Sharon Begely is the author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain. And she says salmon, walnuts, and blueberries are good for your heart. And a healthy heart sends increased blood flow to the brain – which improves mental sharpness and memory. But eating walnut-encrusted salmon and blueberry cobbler won’t magically help you understand calculus or learn to speak French.
  • Doing puzzles will make you the next Einstein. Nope. Crosswords and Sudoku will improve your vocabulary and logic skills, but they won’t raise your IQ. Think of it this way – you could practice shooting free throws 10 hours a day for a decade, and still not be the next Kobe Bryant. That said, studies suggest that doing puzzles can help ward off Alzheimer’s. But so can any unusual activity, like opening doors and brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand.
  • Classical music raises IQ. That’s False. It’s known as the “Mozart effect.” And the idea gained traction when researchers found that students who listened to a Mozart sonata before taking an IQ test improved their scores by an average of 8 points. But follow-up studies found that the increase had more to do with the participants’ enjoyment of the music than actual increased brainpower. It turns out that all of the original study participants really liked classical music. So, hearing it improved their mood and made them more alert and they did better on the test. Which means, whether you get a kick from grunge rock, or Justin Bieber, listening to that before a test may help you get a better grade, too.