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The Great British Intelligence Test

Michael Mosley

How clever are you and how does your brain power compare to the rest of the UK’s? Is your smartphone making you stupid? Can you make yourself more intelligent?

Find out the answers by taking The Great British Intelligence Test.

When it comes to measuring intelligence, there are lots of skills that come into play – from problem solving and spatial ability, to emotional awareness and working memory. But however you break it down, one thing is clear – intelligence matters.

People who score well on intelligence tests tend, on average, to live longer, age better and are more likely to achieve academic and career success. But don’t panic – more and more research is suggesting that intelligence isn’t fixed. That’s why understanding how intelligence works - what factors affect it and how to improve it - is so important.

And we need YOU to help by taking the Great British Intelligence Test.

Your individual results will also be contributing to important scientific research, helping scientists at the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College, London, to understand how our changing behavior and lifestyle is affecting our intelligence.

Dr Hannah Fry and I will be presenting the overall results of our test in a special episode of Horizon which will be broadcast on BBC2. The more people who take the test, the more we can learn about the state of the nation’s intelligence and the way it is being shaped by the world we live in and the choices we make.

In this programme we’ll also be asking why we see the results we do, and will delve into the latest science on intelligence and the brain. But what we investigate depends on you and your responses.

The Great British Intelligence Test

BBC Horizon and Dr Adam Hampshire at Imperial College, London want to use the results of The Great British Intelligence Test to explore how our changing behaviour and lifestyle could be affecting our brain function. Click the link below to go to Imperial's Great British Intelligence Test website. The tests give each participant feedback on how they compare to others who have taken the test, and on their cognitive strengths.

You can take the test now

I’m genuinely fascinated to see what emerges from this study, not least because it will add to a lot of new scientific research which is currently going on into the human brain.

More and more research is suggesting that intelligence isn’t fixed. That’s why understanding how intelligence works - what factors affect it and how to improve it - is so important.

When I was at medical school we were taught that we were born with all the brain cells we would ever have, and that after middle age it was downhill from then on. But we now know that this isn’t true. Today technologies like MRI and MEG scanning mean that we can peer inside the living brain and take a look at how it functions in ways that were not possible even a decade ago. This research is shedding light on something that scientists call ‘neuroplasticity’ – the idea that our brains keep on changing, and that we go on growing new brain cells, and making new brain connections, throughout our lives.

What’s more, we now know far more about the extent to which these changes are influenced by the world around us, and even by the choices we make in our day to day lives. This presents us with the tantalising possibility that we have more control over our brains and our cognitive prowess than was conceivable when I was young.

Amongst other things, I’m hoping The Great British Intelligence Test will show us is what we can do, not only to maximize but also to protect our brain power. Like many middle aged people I worry about the fact that I find it harder to remember names and details as I get older, and I’m disconcertingly aware that I rely on my smartphone to remind me of phone numbers and diary appointments. I want to understand why my memory is getting worse with age, and what I can do to improve it.

I also want to find out how our ever-changing world could be affecting our cognitive function. Over the last few decades the internet, smart phones and social media have utterly transformed the way we absorb information and interact with one another. In The Great British Intelligence Test we’ll be able to take a look at how this explosion of technology could be affecting our brains and what it might mean for our intelligence – both now and in the future.

I am excited to be taking part in furthering scientific research. You can help us by taking The Great British Intelligence Testclick here to give it a go, and get immediate feedback on your own mental strengths and tips for improvements.

Watch out for Horizon’s Great British Intelligence Test on BBC Two in 2020.