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See Inside October/November 2007

Brain Changes

They seem normal enough. But how come Grandpa doesn't act retarded—and Sonny is clearly no budding Einstein?

Those questions pop up when intelligence researchers look at the startling trends in IQ scores. Massive point gains occurred from one generation to the next throughout the 20th century—a phenomenon dubbed the “Flynn effect,” after psychologist James R. Flynn. The IQ gains were troubling: either today's children are far brighter than their parents, or the tests are not good measures of intelligence. To express it another way, if we put the score of today's average American at 100, then the Americans of 1900 had a mean IQ of 50 to 70, signaling an obviously implausible plague of mental retardation among our progenitors. Something must have happened, but what? Now Flynn himself offers answers in his article, “Solving the IQ Puzzle,” starting on page 24.

The brain is famously adaptable, altering in response to conditions in a person's environment and to his or her life experiences. “Brain Stains,” by psychologists Kelly Lambert and Scott O. Lilienfeld, reveals the dark side of that mutability. Patients who have undergone traumatic and misdirected “therapies” can suffer mentally and emotionally damaging consequences that may persist for years. Turn to page 46 for their disturbing and important account.

Of course, the power of good therapy is in the lasting benefits that it bestows. As psychologists Hal Arkowitz and Lilienfeld write in this issue's Facts and Fictions in Mental Health, empirically supported options such as cognitive-behavior therapy can create the kinds of positive brain changes associated with the use of antidepressant medications. Talk therapy may offer other advantages over drugs as well. The column appears on page 80.

While we are on the subject of columns, I want to point you to the revamped Calendar (page 22) and Mind Reviews (page 84). We hope you find the pages more appealing and easier to use—part of our ongoing efforts to fine-tune your Mind.

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