"It's a damn good thing for a brain to be able to manipulate information with such facility in fast time," Merzenich says. "But to say that it's far transfer is questionable."
Other experts are also skeptical. "It's a little shocking to me that this would be published without any caveats," says K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee who studies expert performance and memory and was also not involved in the study. "I would be one of the first to be really excited if this turned out to be a genuine reproducible effect, but the more I read, the more questions I have." Ericsson says he is troubled by the paper's lack of several details, among them, how the subjects and controls were recruited and how well matched they were.
Merzenich notes that the work challenges the long-standing and much-disputed idea that the core basis of intelligence is inherited and cannot be modified. "I think it's important that someone has demonstrated," he says, "that you can change measures of 'intelligence' by intensive training."