As a small business owner, you’re probably already plenty aware of the benefits of networking. Getting out and meeting new people can get you access to new talent, new markets or new partnerships. But when you’re shaking hands and passing out contact details, one thing you’re probably not hoping to get is smarter.

But networking, it turns out, isn’t just good for your career -- it’s good for your brain as well.

That’s one of the takeaways of a long examination of the science of smarts that appeared on the Scientific American blogs. The piece by Andrea Kuszewski. a behavior therapist and researcher with METODO Social Sciences Institute, delves deeply into the science of intelligence and recounts Kuszewski’s experiences helping children on the autism spectrum lead fuller lives. With training some boosted their IQ scores by as much as 20 points.

Normal functioning adults can use some of the same principles employed with these kids to improve their intelligence as well, Kuszewski writes, offering five ways to maximize your cognitive potential. Perhaps the most surprising among her suggestions is networking:

"By networking with other people--either through social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or in face-to-face interactions--you are… exposing yourself to new people, ideas, and environments, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities for cognitive growth. Being in the presence of other people who may be outside of your immediate field gives you opportunities to see problems from a new perspective, or offer insight in ways that you had never thought of before. Learning is all about exposing yourself to new things and taking in that information in ways that are meaningful and unique-;networking with other people is a great way to make that happen. I’m not even going to get into the social benefits and emotional well-being that is derived from networking as a factor here, but that is just an added perk.

Steven Johnson, author who wrote the book "Where Good Ideas Come From", discusses the importance of groups and networks for the advancement of ideas. If you are looking for ways to seek out novel situations, ideas, environments, and perspectives, then networking is the answer."

So this year when holiday party season rolls around again and you start to feel the fatigue of too many get togethers (or too much eggnog) then keep Kuszewski in mind -- another night of schmoozing may make you a bit more tired, but it’ll also make you smarter.

What else can you do to maximize your brain’s potential? Check out the complete post for the other four actionable principles or revisit this classic post laying out learning expert Annie Murphy Paul’s eight practical suggestions to be smarter.