The dual n-back study

For a long time, researchers believed it was impossible to improve our intelligence, that intelligence was something unalterable and inherent. But a study called dual n-back is debunking this theory once and for all. 

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Researchers used to believe only skills such as processing speed could be trained through brain training. The counterargument to this assumptiom comes from researchers at the University of Michigan who set out to examine the question: 

Is it possible to improve our IQ?

Dr. Susanne Jaeggi and her team all agree: Our intelligence can be trained! [1] They delivered the counterevidence to previous scientific hypotheses. Their examinations were based on the challenging but effective exercise named dual n-back. This exercise helps us to train our working memory, which positively influences our fluid intelligence. The fluid intelligence is part of our general intelligence. The following of our skills are operated by our fluid intelligence: 

  • solve complex/abstract problems 
  • logical reasoning 
  • learning new things 
  • recognition of patterns 
  • adapting to situations 

The experiment

About 70 grown-ups participated in the dual n-back study. At first, they had to complete a pre-test (IQ-test) in order to measure their fluid intelligence. This pre-test is very suitable for measuring fluid intelligence as most standardised IQ tests are designed to determine it. In order to draw comparative conclusions, there was a group that did not follow through with any training, while another group trained with this exercise for 8 to 19 days. 

The results

After the training, the participants' intelligence was once again tested. The results were surprisingly positive. Not only did the group that had been training achieve better results in the intelligence test than the group that hadn't been training, the results also showed that those that had been training for a longer period of time accomplished better results than those that had only been training for a short amount of time. Thus, the increase of fluid intelligence depends on how long of a time span a person trains for. More training days led to a more distinctive IQ increase. 

The fact that fluid intelligence can be improved has been supported by numerous follow-up studies, e.g. a large-scale brain training study at the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development. 

The n-back training concept offers great potential for the improvement of brain performance in all areas of our life - whether it is at school, at work, and in our everyday life. 

The training based on the study

The NeuroNation team has developed training courses that are based on the dual n-back courses of the experiment. These training courses are great for training regularly and are designed to challenge your working memory effectively. 

» To the training exercises 

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Sources:

[1] Jaeggi,S.M. et al. (2008), Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory, S. 1-4, PNAS
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/04/25/0801268105.abstract

Jaeggi,S.M. et al. (2011), Short- and long-term benefits of cognitive training
http://www.pnas.org/content/108/25/10081.full

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