Posts Tagged ‘fluid-intelligence’

Open Question: Training Methods And Transfer To Fluid Intelligence

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

When my infant son woke me at 4:30am this morning, what question crept into my head? Can we figure out the optimal training approach, or optimal training approaches, for generating transfer to fluid intelligence; what do we know, what can we deduce, and how can we measure our theories?

I don’t want to assume just one answer. The answer may differ from person to person or from day-to-day. We’ve discussed some of the differences between taking breaks and training straight through, between canceling a block and not, between meditating between blocks and not, and between training frequently or less frequently. We’ve also discussed how we might consistently measure working-memory and transfer to fluid intelligence.

I thought it might be helpful to state some of the principles at work, as I understand them, and begin an open discussion of this topic. If we develop some theories, we may be able to test them out. (This might ultimately involve an on-line study along the lines that Shaun framed out, but with the added dimension that we could compare different training strategies.)

Or we might simply provide food for thought so that people can try out different approaches and find what works best for them.

The principles:

1. Working-memory gains transfer to fluid intelligence gains. The Jaeggi, Buschkuehl research hypothesized, tested, and demonstrated the validity of this principle; we can use it to help us think through training approaches and measurement strategies. (We might accept that measuring increases in working-memory is as relevant as measuring increases in fluid intelligence…)

2. Progressive training of working-memory increases working-memory focus and span. The dual n-back training method exemplifies this principle, requiring us to use visual and aural working-memory simultaneously.

So, in considering different ways to approach the dual n-back training sessions, we must try to determine, if we can, which of the strategies will most effectively lead to working-memory increases.

3. Maximum short-term working-memory capacity does not necessarily reflect effective working-memory capacity. By this I mean that we can increase our short term performance on the n-back task and on a working-memory span test by meditation, exercise, etc. but that this doesn’t necessarily reflect an increase in our day-to-day or long term working-memory capacity. (I increased my n-back average to 7.0 when I was using block cancellation, breaks, meditation, etc., but when I train straight through without extensive use of these techniques, my n-back score hasn’t been higher than 6.5.)

We must be careful to consider this in any measurement methodology.

4. Neurogenesis and plastic change require focused attention on a task, as well as a sense of satisfaction, pleasure, or achievement from the task. (Through the release of acetylcholine and dopamine respectively.)

These are the core principles as I understand them.

We also have two other findings that we should consider:

5. Sleep consolidates gains. Open question – could some form of meditation or deep relaxation substitute for sleep and might it be used to help boost long term working-memory?

6. Exercise vs. no exercise boosts short-term performance.


So, an effective dual n-back training approach must be rewarding, focused, and demanding.

Some tricky questions:

- Strategies that help boost short-term n-back scores (training after exercise, taking breaks, canceling blocks, etc.) can lead to increased satisfaction by boosting n-back score. But this increase in satisfaction may come at the expense of demanding more of our prolonged focus and attention.

- The straight-through strategy can lead to FLOW and the satisfaction of training more frequently. Does it demand less of us in the work of stretching working-memory span? (Example: Since I’ve been going straight through I’ve been spending more time at n=5 and 6 and less at n=7 and 8.)

Alright, I’ve probably said enough. Others please chime in…


PS. I’m going pin this post to the blog home page so that it’s easy to find.

Working-Memory Not Processing Speed Determines Fluid Intelligence

Monday, December 29th, 2008

As I was researching academic studies related to processing speed (with a view to perhaps including processing speed training in the Brain Fitness program) I discovered this fascinating paper:

A latent variable analysis of working memory capacity, short-term memory capacity, processing speed, and general fluid intelligence

(Andrew R. A. Conway, Nelson Cowan, Michael F. Bunting, David J. Therriault and Scott R. B. Minkoff)

Conway set out to see whether working-memory, short term memory, and processing speed could be correlated to fluid intelligence. He found, somewhat surprisingly, that while working-memory capacity has a very strong correlation to fluid intelligence, neither short term memory nor processing speed has a significant correlation.

Conway discusses the significance of this result at some length. He makes some compelling points:

1. His findings strengthen the argument that working-memory can be equated to fluid intelligence. The more items of information we can hold and manipulate, the better we can arrive at intelligent analyses.

2. When testing the effect of processing speed on intelligence it is important to keep the tasks very simple, to avoid any unintended overlap with working-memory. He cites this as the reason that previous studies found a link between processing speed and fluid intelligence.

3. In young children and aging subjects, processing speed may indeed have an impact on fluid intelligence. This would call for processing speed training for the elderly.

I found Conway’s methodology quite thoughtful and sound. Overall, I’m disuaded from designing exercises that train only processing speed, but instead to continue to focus on working-memory and perhaps include an element of processing speed as a way to provide novelty and reward (a faster working-memory task, perhaps).

Cath’s story so far after 14 days…

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Although my scores improved steadily for the first 5 days, from day 6 until day 10 I was on a rollercoaster;

day 6  n= 3.4

day 7  n= 3.7

day 8  n= 3.5

day 9  n= 4.1

day 10 n=3.8

day 11 n=3.8

day 12 n= 3.9

day 13 n= 4.1

day 14 n= 4.3

thankfully, since day 10 scores have improved again.  I seem to have days where i just can’t concentrate and have to cancel a few blocks at a time, then regain concentration again.  However, I am somehow finding my own ways of concentration, consciously blocking out distractions, which could help me in everyday life.

Still enjoying the training and hope to master n=5 by the 19th block!?? 


Session #26

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Session #26

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Training location: Block Island, dining room.
Training conditions: Tired – no nap or exercise today. Late afternoon, alone.

Started on n=6. Went up to n=7 with one miss.  Seven hits, eight misses, back down to n=6. Six misses, down to n=5. Three misses. Four misses. Two misses, up to n=6. Seven misses. Five misses.

Resumed Thursday, July 31, 2008

Block Island, dining room, just had lunch, tired.

n=5 two misses, up to n=6. Just 3 misses, staying on n=6. Seven misses (felt better). Close call, 5 misses. 3 misses. Two misses, up to n=6. Six misses. Down to n=5.

Resumed Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Block Island, dining room, morning

n=5, five misses. Two misses, up to n=6. Five misses. Eight misses (which surprised me,) down to n=5.

Ending with mean n=5.5

Session #25

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Training location: Block Island, upstairs.
Training conditions: Tired – no nap or exercise today. Late afternoon, alone.

Started out with n=5, 6 misses. Not a good start!! No misses on n=4, back up to n=5.  One miss, up to n=6. Five misses, staying on n=6. Five misses again. Six misses, down to n=5.  Two misses, back up to n=6.  Followed by 11 misses!! (Wasn’t aware I was focused so poorly.)  Two misses on n=5, back up to n=6.  Four misses, staying on n=6. Five misses. Six misses, down to n=5. Not good – Five misses. Losing focus. Three misses. Three misses.

Had to stop.

Resuming on Thursday, early afternoon, no exercise, tired.

Five misses. Three misses (though I thought I had none).  Three misses.  Stopped and restarted again the next day.

Mean n-back = 5.3

Session #24

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Day 5

Monday, July 14, 2008

Training location:
Home in Brooklyn – Downstairs

Training conditions:
Afternoon. Tired, but feeling positive after a hard swim in the morning. Plenty of coffee. Alone in the house but pressed for time.

Started with n=4. No misses. One miss on n=5, up to n=6. Five misses, staying on n=6. Nine misses, back down to n=5. Three misses, staying on n=5. Four misses.

Had to break off after 6 blocks…

Friday, July 18, 2008

Resumed training location:
Block Island (arrived yesterday)

Resumed training conditions:
Afternoon. Tired, but positive swam in the ocean this morning. Plenty of coffee. Alone in the house.

First block n=5, four misses. Then four misses again, followed by two misses – up to n=6.  Just 3 misses on n=6.  Followed by five misses.  Next, just two misses, up to n=7. (8 hits, 6 misses – not too bad.)  Followed by 7 misses on n=6, back down to n=5. (Same pattern again of falling off after a few good rounds.)  Just two misses, back up to n=6.

Having to break off again after 15 blocks…

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Resumed Again – Block Island, afternoon, upstairs, after nap.

First block n=6. Eight misses. Four misses on n=5. 7 misses, down to n=4. 5 misses on n=4. (Doing poorly, but it doesn’t seem to feel that way!!)

Finally finished this “session” with a mean score of n=5.3.

Session #23

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Day 4 of second program

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Training location:
Home in Brooklyn – Upstairs

Training conditions:
Afternoon. Tired from lack of sleep. Plenty of coffee this morning. Alone in the house. No exercise since Wednesday.

11 days since the previous training session
. Curious to see whether the previous big gain will stick after this long a break.

Starting on n=4. No misses. 5 misses on n=5. 5 misses again. Definitely feeling a little rusty… With 6 misses on the next block, down to n=4. One miss, back up to n=5. 8 misses (lots of guessing!) and back down to n=4. 4 misses, staying on n=4. Two misses, back up to n=5. Five misses, staying on n=5. Five misses again. (This seems to be a wall today on n=5, vastly different from the previous two sessions.) Five misses again. Five misses again. Five misses again. Aha! Down to four misses, with 10 hits. And after that I’m really struggling to hold on to n=5 on the next block!!  I keep losing focus entirely.  8 misses!!! Down to n=4. Two misses, back up to n=5. One miss, up to n=6 for the first time this session.  Four misses, staying on n=6. (Now starting to remember the patterns more clearly than earlier in the session.) Six misses, down to n=5.

So, training breaks may consolidate gains, but longer breaks may erode previous gains.

Mean n=4.85

IQ Training Tips: Breaks Consolidate Gains

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Why scores may keep climbing even when you’re not training

After seeing a big jump in my scores when I took a break of six days between sessions 20 and 21, I mentioned the phenomenon to Susanne Jaeggi. Here is what she said:

“this is an effect which is quite common in training literature – the spacing of the training gives the brain the opportunity to consolidate the learnt information (or processes). thus, a break from time to time is a good approach for the training.”

Recommendations for optimal use of the IQ Training Program

This gives us a couple of fascinating insights into how we can get the most out of the IQ Training Program.

  1. Be aware that the brain may take a few days to consolidate the effects of the training — if you’re training for an important test, allow for a break of a few days between the end of the training period and the day of the test.
  2. Jaeggi also shared the following fascinating hypothesis: “we don’t currently know what happens if participants train longer than 4 weeks in terms of training and transfer…. after the initial learning as you did, it could also be efficient enough to use the training as a short ‘booster’ every couple of weeks or so.”

    A recommendation well worth trying out.

Related posts from around the web…

Can Intelligence Be Trained? Martin Buschkuehl shows how. – Today I had a great conversation with Martin Buschkuehl, one of the University of Michigan’s Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab researchers involved in the cognitive training study that has received much media attention (New York Times, Wired, …

Boost Kids’ IQ By Simple Brain Exercise – Can mental training improve your intelligence? No video game or mental puzzle has convincingly been shown to work. But now a group of neuropsychologists claims it has found a task that can add points to a person’s IQ – and the harder …

Better IQ Needs Brain Training – US scientists have shattered the myth that innate intelligence cannot be improved. They have proven that it can be done with the right kind of training. In the list of things we regard as immutable, intelligence would rank very high. …

Intelligence can be Improved with Memory Training – A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that fluid intelligence, which was previously believed to be an immutable trait, can now be increased with memory exercises. …

Brain training games boost IQ, study shows – It has been suggested before that Sudoku number puzzles improve memory, while crosswords expand the vocabulary. The elderly are also said to benefit from a new generation of computer exercises played on video consoles to improve recall. …

Improving Fluid Intelligence by Training Working Memory

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Fluid Intelligence And Working Memory

Psychologists and neuroscientists refer to our ability to reason and to solve new problems as Fluid Intelligence (Gf). Critical for a wide variety of cognitive tasks, scientists consider fluid intelligence one of the most important factors in learning and problem solving, and closely related to professional and educational success. A long history of research into cognitive training previously showed that no kind of training could increase fluid intelligence. But Susanne Jaeggi and her colleagues from the Universities of Michigan and Bern have demonstrated that training on a demanding working memory task can do just that. And the extent of gain depends on the amount of training.

The Training Method

improving fluid intelligence iq by training working memory dual n-back displayJaeggi and Buschkuehl designed a training method called progressive dual n-back training. Presented with a sequence of symbols at the same time as a sequence of sounds, the subject has to recognize repetitions in each sequence separately. The method adjusts in difficulty (increasing the distance between targets) according to the ability of the subject, therefore ensuring that it continuously tests and strengthens working memory. The call for about thirty minutes of training per day over a period of up to 19 days reflects the assumption that any improvement would require focused, prolonged effort.

IQ Training Gain Intelligence Improvement versus Working Memory Training Duration

Measured Improvements in Fluid Intelligence

This bold study achieved dramatic results. Testing the subjects before and after the training, the researchers recorded gains in raw test scores of as much as 50% and by an average of more than 40%.

These findings unseat the concept of fixed, innate intelligence.

Achieving Your Own IQ Gains

Jaeggi saw immediately the transformative power of these results; she concludes the discussion section of her paper as follows: “Considering the fundamental importance of Gf in everyday life and its predictive power for a large variety of intellectual tasks and professional success, we believe that our findings may be highly relevant to applications in education.”

Martin Buschkuehl University of Michigan neuroscience research fluid intelligence working memory iqIn an interview, Martin Buschkuehl commented on the experiences of the training subjects in the study: “Many liked the training. They saw the challenge, and tried hard to push themselves through the training to see how far they could go. We did not analyze how the fluid intelligence gains transferred into real life. But from an anecdotal point of view, many participants have shared stories of how they perceive a major benefit. Now they can follow lectures more easily, understand math better etc…”

Wired’s Alexis Madrigal was less circumspect: “The method, if commercialized, could be a boon to the growing, multimillion-dollar market for “brain fitness” software like Nintendo’s Brain Age.”

mind evolve’s IQ Training Program allows anyone to use this method of training at home for the introductory price of just $23.75. Click here to purchase and download. You can be on your way to a smarter future within minutes.

Related posts from around the web…

Which Cognitive Enhancers Really Work: Brain Training, Drugs …
- One new study, though, does suggest that training working memory can increase fluid intelligence – what we use to solve problems which don’t rely on things we already know. The study, recently published in The Proceedings of the …

Evidence based education: memory tasks
- The activity we do at the moment that is most like training working memory is narration. I read a passage, and Antonia narrates it back to me, hopefully in order, with detail. I noticed that the key for her is to make a conscious effort …

- A new study has found that improving brain power by training working memory does work. “It may be possible to train people to be more intelligent, (as by playing brain power games) increasing the brainpower they had at birth. …

Traing working memory increases fluid intelligence (Gf): New research
- Training working memory can increase fluid intelligence (Gf). Wow. Hmmmmm? I’ve had a number of people forward the following abstract to me. After reading the article I now see why. The article in the Proceedings of the National Academy …

Session #22

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Day 3

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Training location:

Block Island – Upstairs

Training conditions:

Morning. Some coffee in the morning. Just swam in the ocean.

Curious to see what happens after the big jump last time. Started with n=5, up to n=6. (6 hits, 7 misses.) Next round, 7 misses on n=5, dropping down to n=4. Bouncing right back up to n=6. 7 misses. Struggling today with n=6. No misses on block 9, up to n=6. 5 misses, staying on n=6. 5 misses again, staying on n=6. 3 misses, staying on n=6. 4 misses, staying on n=6. 2 misses, up to n=7. 7 hits, 7 misses, down to n=6. 10 misses! Down to n=5. 10 hits, 2 misses, back up to n=6. 4 misses, staying on n=6. 9 misses, back down to n=5. (6 misses, down to n=4 for start of next session.)

Mean n=5.55