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Changing IQ

November 9, 2011

Contrary to expectations, some teenagers’ IQ scores changed significantly over a four-year period.


IQ volatility.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s long been thought that your IQ doesn’t change much over time. But maybe not, according to cognitive neuroscientist Cathy Price of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London.  She and her colleagues tested 33 healthy teenagers at age 14 and again at 18.  Many of their IQ scores went significantly up or down – on the verbal or non-verbal subtest, or both.

CATHY PRICE (Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, London):

And we were able to show that the degree to which their scores had changed over the four year period matched the degree to which parts of their brain had changed.


Kids with better scores had somehow increased the density of nerve cells called grey matter – in brain areas that were relevant to the subtests they improved on.  The next question is whether these changes were biologically pre-determined, or the result of the teenagers’ activities during the four-year gap.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.