Long Term Brain Training Update

Dave asked about recent progress since I’ve been doubling up my daily brain training quota with one session of regular dual n-back and one session of MindSparke’s “nines”:

Here is my dual n-back training progress chart starting in June 2008. I started the doubled up training regime around session 208.

Long Term Brain Training Progress

Long Term Brain Training Progress

The chart shows that since doubling up training sessions my n-back averages have been increasing quite sharply, more sharply than at any point since the initial training period. It also shows that daily n-back averages have been oscillating more dramatically than before, swerving between lows in the low 8s and highs in the low 11s. My recent high score of 11.3 far exceeds the 9.3 high I had posted before I started the doubled-up sessions.

In everyday life I’ve been relishing the benefits of the new training. All of the benefits I had noticed before have been heightened — quicker absorption of complex material, increased ability to frame and communicate information in written form, increased ability to solve problems.

I’ve also noticed that my everyday memory has improved. This was something I didn’t notice previously. But the difference is marked. I’ve always been absent minded, forgetting to do things, forgetting names, etc. but recently I’ve been surprising myself by being far less absent minded.

Other benefits have been an improved ability to write songs and play guitar. In writing songs I’ve noticed that I am better able to understand and communicate the ideas and emotion behind the inspiration for the song.

(Oh, and crossword solving ability has improved, too…)

5 Responses to “Long Term Brain Training Update”

  1. Dave says:

    Martin, thanks for sharing. That’s a pretty convincing graph :) . Your subjective feelings of cognitive enhancement are also quite motivating.

    A few more questions (if you don’t mind):

    1. Did the cognitive changes clearly come after doubling up? If so, how soon after doubling-up did you notice the improvements?

    2. Do you think playing both dual n-back *and* nines was responsible for the improvement, or could you get the same result by doing two sessions of regular dual n-back instead? (I think you’d have to run the experiment by actually trying it to be able to answer that question, but I’m asking in case you had already tried doubling up on regular dual n-back in the past).

    3. Do you do both sessions back to back in one hour-long session, or do you split them into two half-hour sessions?

    4. Do you take any days off during the week?

    Thanks, this is fascinating stuff.


  2. martin says:

    Hi, Dave.

    Happy to provide answers:

    1. The cognitive changes came at about the same pace as they did when I first started training with dual n-back. It took a week or two before I noticed anything, and then the onset was quite pronounced.

    2. I hadn’t doubled up on regular dual n-back in the past. But other people have and I recall that they reported small benefits to n-back scores but nothing dramatic. For several reasons I think that the combination of regular dual n-back and “nines” in a single training episode is key to the improvement:

    – My performances on the two exercises don’t track one another. Some days I do well on one exercise, some days the other. These performance differences can be quite dramatic.

    – Moving from one exercise to the other provides a transition in the training that seems to tap a different facet of brain power. Asking my brain to switch appears to be a key training function.

    3. Most days I do the two sessions back to back. This takes about an hour and twenty minutes since the blocks at n-levels around 9 last almost 1.5 minutes.

    4. I usually take a couple of days off. Usually the weekend days.

    I think it would be great to find out whether someone could derive a similar benefit from a shorter training duration. Any takers?


  3. Dave says:

    Thanks Martin.

    It’s interesting that you think that “nines” is a key part of the effects you’re experiencing.

    The neuroscientist who developed the Brain Age application Ninteno is using seems to think that doing rapid simple mental calculations is the best way to “improve one’s intelligence”.

    He sells books which contain pages and pages of simple mental calculations, and instructs the user to solve them as fast as possible without stopping for a set period of time (I think it was for two or three minutes).

    He reports having PET scans that show the greatest brain activity when performing these tasks when compared to other tasks such as reading etc..

    I don’t think he had any evidence tying this increased brain activity to objective measures of cognitive enhancement, but your experience is interesting given his theory.

    Now one thing that would go against that theory is that you played nines for about a month without noting these effects, so the question remains unanswered for now.

    It would be great if Will or Shaun would try doubling up on regular n-back to see if they get a similar increase in their performance over time slope. It could just be that improvements are proportional to the cumulative amount of time spent doing the task in a day. There was a guy on the google n-back group who saw a huge jump in his numbers with dramatic positive subjective cognitive effects after three days of intense dual n-back (I think he did three hundred trials in those three days).

    Interesting stuff.


  4. martin says:

    Hi, Dave.

    Yes, you’re right that “nines” by itself didn’t seem to have a particular impact. But it feels to me as though doing both exercises, one after the other, causes the brain to work in a different way, or switch gears in a productive fashion.

    Like you say, this would need further investigation.


  5. Shaun Luttin says:

    Hi Dave,

    In the past seven months, a computer programming course has taken up my brain training. Starting today, I’ve more free time. While doubling up on the training is unlikely, taking on another 19 session commitment is likely.

    See you after session one.

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