Book Review: Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power


Image from

Dan Hurley wants to know what can make him smarter. He’s written a book about the different ways that he can learn to become smarter, including everything from smart drugs to nicotine, to exercise, to brain training exercises. He goes through each in turn, exploring their history and current applications.

His goal is to see if he can make himself measurably smarter and qualify for Mensa, the society for people with IQs in the top 2% of the population. He starts his regiment by taking their test, and without finding the results, undergoes a bit of self-experimentation to potentially improve his intelligence.

In the spirit of most biohacking so far, his experiments are self-controlled, self-inflicted, as well as non-scientific (no controls) and anecdotal. He does not try all the various possibilities (he skips LSD for in example), but a number of the other regimens he manages to perform. These include TCS (trans-cranial stimulation) as well as nicotine patches and brain training sites like Lumosity.

In the end, he is marginally successful, and I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoiling too much of the book. His results aren’t the greatest cognitive leap, and there is a twist as to whether he makes it into Mensa, but I won’t spoil that either. It’s a good book if you have the time – some of the research is quite intriguing, and he rights with a semi-comedic and self-deprecating tone when discussing the science and his participation in it.