A new study in mice has suggested that people can boost their intelligence by eating smart.
According to the study, conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), dietary nutrients found in a wide range of foods from infant formula to eggs increase brain synapses and improve cognitive abilities.
"I hope human brains will, like those of experimental animals, respond to this kind of treatment by making more brain synapses and thus restoring cognitive abilities," said Richard Wurtman, MD, senior researcher on the project.
For the study, researchers gave gerbils various combinations of three compounds needed for healthy brain membranes: choline, found in eggs; uridine monophosphate (UMP) found in beets; and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in fish oils.
Other gerbils were given none of these to serve as a baseline.
Researchers then checked them for cognitive changes four weeks later and found that the gerbils given choline with UMP and/or DHA showed cognitive improvements in tasks thought to be relevant to gerbils, such as navigating mazes.
After these tests were concluded, the researchers dissected the mouse brains for a biological cause for the improvement.
They found biochemical evidence that there was more than the usual amount of brain synapse activity, which was consistent with behaviours indicating higher intelligence.
Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said: "Now that we know how to make gerbils smarter, it's not too far a stretch to hope that people's intelligence can also be improved. Quite frankly, this can't happen soon enough, as every environmentalist, advocate of evolution and war opponent will attest."
The study is published online in The FASEB Journal.