Susan Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl, whilst at the University of Bern in Switzerland, devised this devillishly challenging game to really stretch the capacities of working memory. Improving working memory was never a particularly contraversial proposition. However the aspect of brain training that has always been disputed was how readily these improvements spilled over into other cognitive domains. For instance, how might it impact on other useful brain abilities like problem solving? Well, it turns out that a greater working memory capacity can even increase your IQ by boosting fluid intelligence!
So click here to download, gratis, your very own fluid intelligence boosting Dual N-Back game to your computer and get training. And don't forget, to see any meaningful results you'll need to train often (everyday?), intensively (the game will automatically ensure it's always set at a level that it not to easy, not too hard, but just right) and keep your training up for long periods of time (don't give up!).
Once you've downloaded the game, click on the brain workshop icon and then a 3 by 3 grid will appear that looks not dissimilar to a noughts and crosses board. A coloured square will appear and then disappear every couple of seconds or so and your task is to keep track of when it reappears in the same place twice. To begin with you will be asked to hit a button when the square appears in the same place twice in a row (the "A" button on your keyboard). This is the 1-Back version of the game. Simplicity itself.
Once you get a high score on that level (more than 80% correct answers) you'll be moved up to the 2-Back task which is a little bit trickier. This time you hit the button not when it reappears in the same position as the previous time, but the time before last. Hence not 1-Back but 2-Back.
Once you do very well on any level (80% or more) it will move you up to the harder level i.e. the 3-Back task, the 4-Back task and so on. Keeping in mind where the square has appeared in the past is working memory in action. The further back in time you have to recall the previous appearances of the square the greater the challenge to your working memory.
NB be sure to keep track of which level you are on. Not only does the game automatically move you up a level when you do well, but it also moves you down a level when you do badly. However it is not always obvious when you've been moved up and down a level. So be sure to keep an eye on which level you are on whenever you hit the space bar to begin a new game. It will be displayed across the top of the screen.
Here's the twist. So far you've only heard the half of it!! Simultaneously with keeping track of the visual information (the postion of the square) you also have to keep track of a sequence of sound information at the same time (a letter of the alphabet spoken out loud through your computer speakers or headphones each time the coloured square appears). So what makes this game REALLY challenging is that you have to simultaneously perform a visual AND an auditory working memory task. When the same letter is spoken as the previous one in the 1-Back game you have to hit a different button (the "L" button on your keyboard). In the 2-Back you hit the button when the same letter is spoken as the one before last and so on.
It gets really tough really quickly (I'm not going to lie to you - it took me MUCH longer than the punters in the original experiment to get to Dual 4-back). But please be patient with yourself as it takes a little while to get into the swing of things and also to switch from the rhythm of one level to the next. As this is software created and maintained for free by wonderful academic scientists who do it for love rather than money (a big thank you to Paul Hoskinson !!) it is not as polished, pretty and intuitive as brain games into which huge amounts of corporate money have been poured by the big game manufacturers. However the important thing is - IT WORKS!!
And remember, if you want to get your brain to physically change shape, laying down new synapses to increase the efficiency of communication down brain pathways that support working memory and thus improve your fluid intelligence, then you must really CHALLENGE your brain. This DUAL N-Back game does exactly that!! Good luck and enjoy yourself...
For more information on the many things you can do to SORT YOUR BRAIN OUT please go to your nearest book shop and ask them for a copy of Sort Your Brain Out by Dr Jack Lewis and Adrian Webster (pictured below). If you choose to buy a copy on Amazon we'd really appreciate it if you would take the time to review it. You can follow both Dr Jack Lewis (@drjacklewis) and Adrian Webster (@polarbearpirate) on Twitter.