Audience Participation: Brain Training?


I have mentioned N-Back training before but I would be interested in hearing the experience or comments of readers.

Have you tried N-Back or similar (e.g. digit span) training? If you have, what are your experiences? What kind of scores did you obtain (you can post anonymously)?

My own experience is, that while I still find the games boring, I have increased my stamina for them. When I first tried n-back, I found 10 trials tiring (each trial lasts about one minute); I can now complete 20 trials without a break. I have not tested my IQ (before or after) so cannot comment on that. It may have slightly helped my focus and mental clarity. I still find any cognitive organizing tiring and (a little) stressful, but have seen a slight improvement there.

Pathetic as it sounds, one of the reasons I do not write blog posts (or comments) as often as I would like, is that the thought of such brainwork is unpleasant. Just as some people dread the thought of physical exercise, I dread the thought of mental exercise. It is the particular act of organizing thoughts and focusing that causes such grief. If this sounds strange for a “cerebral” type, I will point out that I do enjoy learning but hate test taking or essay writing (yes, I do understand that test taking is an important component of learning). The increased stamina for n-back appears to have spread into (slightly) increased stamina for cognitive work.

On n-back I can easily complete dual two back and sometimes do well enough on dual 3 back to progress to dual 4 back. I have never completed 4 back at the passing level (I always end up falling back).

I have not tried simple digit span for a while, but was able to achieve 7 to 8 forward. Interestingly, I was almost as good on the backward version. I believe that reversed (where you have to play back the sequence in reverse order) digit span tends to be one digit lower. After period of digit span training, I did find it easier to remember telephone numbers (not coincidentally 7 digits).

So, over to you. What are your experiences? What are your scores? If you are feeling very open, what is your IQ (I suspect that IQ and base scores have some relationship).


If you do want to post anonymously, please note that because WordPress will display an IP address for each comment you should not post from your regular machine. I will not attempt to figure out unsigned comments from their IP but could see if an unsigned and signed comment appeared on the same list.

For digit span, you should avoid chunking (especially if training). Chunking does increase your functional working memory but is not a true measure of its base capacity. In other words you should remember the sequence as distinct numbers and not something like: 123 – 456 – 789. In the real world chunking makes sense, for the purposes of measuring or training working memory it does not.

For any of these games (for want of a better word) you will need to run several tries to reach your base score. Any initial improvement is more likely related to learning the game and not improvement in memory.

Dual N-back does require complete focus. The sequences keep coming and if you miss one you will completely lose your place.

While the traditional expectation for digit span is assumed to be 7± 2, actual working memory capacity can vary greatly based on content.

You can try a “classic” version of Dual-N-back that uses the same form as used in research at:

You can download program that gives you all manner of options (e.g., Triple-N-Back – three stimuli to keep track of, Arithmetic N-Back – perform a sum on the n-back number, etc.) at:


One Response to “Audience Participation: Brain Training?”

  1. Laura Atwood Says:

    I completely agree with this article. Brain State Technologies ( has had an 85% success rate with increasign focus, clarity, and more.
    [DU: While this looks like an advert, I will let it stand. Some readers may find it interesting. Readers should be aware the options mentioned in the post are free, and meditation and mindfulness practice do not require a credit card]

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