I Trained my Brain for 30 Days with Dual N-Back

In the early 1900s, the French government asked psychologist Alfred Binet to help identify students that may require assistance in their schooling. So Binet and his colleagues began creating questions that evaluated innate abilities like attention, memory and problem-solving skills. And they noticed that student’s performance on these questions was correlated with their real performance at school. Over the coming years Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman took Binet’s original test, adapted it, and in 1916 published the Stanford-Binet Intelligence test which coined the Intelligent Quotient… a single number that could theoretically tell someone their intelligence. And with that, the popularity of IQ as a measure of intelligence became mainstream.


Fastforward to 1955 where American psychologist David Wechsler created a new measurement instrument called the Wechsler Adult intelligence Scale, more commonly known as the WAIS. David believed that intelligence involved many mental abilities, and thus incorporated multiple types of tests. Since 1955, this WAIS test has been modified and improved upon until it’s fourth rendition that was released in 2008. The WAIS-IV is the most popular IQ measuring tool in the world. It contains 10 sub-tests that provide scores in four major areas of intelligence: a Verbal Comprehension Scale, a Perceptual Reasoning Scale, a Working Memory Scale, and a Processing Speed Scale. 


And today my friends, I’m going to start attempting to increase my IQ to over 9000. Ok, not 9000 but at least a little bit hopefully. One of the components of the WAIS test is Working Memory and that’s what I’m going to try to improve. 


Far and large, your intelligence is thought to be completely unchangeable, and this supposedly goes for your working memory as well. So the purpose of your working memory is to temporarily hold information so that you can process it and use it to solve problems. I’m sure you’ve heard before that most people can only hold 7 digits in their brain at any given time. The ability to remember this many numbers, that is your working memory. And apparently you can improve the capacity of this working memory. The science is a little bit controversial but that is something we will get into later.  
Here’s how it’s going to work. I’m going to take some tests on day 1 (albeit not very professional ones – ok I’m using humanbenchmark.com). Then I’ll do something called dual n back training for 30 days straight. Dual n back is cognitive training where you have to recall back a position or a sound that was presented to you 2 turns ago, and as you improve 3 turns ago, 4 turns ago and so on. It’s a lot easier to see it in motion.


So you might be saying, Kingston, this is ridiculous, that type of training isn’t going to work! And to that I’d say… yea you might be right. The science is kind of controversial. But we’ll get into that a little later. Let’s set some benchmarks.

Benchmarks

I completed three benchmark tests on humanbenchmark.com: Number Memory, Verbal Memory and Visual Memory. The average levels I achieved on each were 10, 74, and 11, respectively. Remember those numbers because we’ll be doing the tests again at the end of this challenge to see if there has been any improvement.

Update 1 – Day 8

The craziest thing happened today. I had a huge mental breakthrough on this game, in terms of strategy. I’m going to try to explain it. 

Suppose the first three letters were R, T, Q. If the next letter was S, I would reorganize the letters in my head as TQS, and I would forget about that first “R” completely. Now that I have TQS in m head, if the next letter was T, then I’d press the sound button, and then I’d reorganize in my head as QST. Each turn I’d reorganize the letters and positions in my head. And this was so mentally draining and inefficient. It’s clearly not the way the game was meant to played. So today, I realized, that I can just separate everything into group of 3s. So if the first three letters are RTQ, I hold onto that in my head as I hear the next 3, let’s say STC. In this scenario, the second letter was the same so I’d press the “sound” button when I hear T, but I wouldn’t press it for the others. S doesn’t match up with R, and C doesn’t match up with Q, When I shifted my strategy to this, which is probable the way the game was meant to be played, I saw an immediate increase in efficacy. And now I’ve finally been able to reach level 4 consistently. Let’s keep this going. 

Update 2 – Day 15

I’m about 2 weeks into this challenge now, and I’ve finally for the first time reached level 5, which is called Dual 5 back. So at any given time throughout the practice session, I have 5 visual positions and 5 auditory letters in my working memory. I can certainly say at the beginning of this challenge, I wasn’t able to do that. I could barely manage 3 of each at a time. But now when I’m doing the dual 3 back, I get 100% correct almost every single time. And that progress feels good. I’m clearly getting better at the game, my levels increasing and my brain is adapting to the new challenge. The real question that remains is whether or not this increase in performance will have applicable effects to the real world. I wonder if I’ll see increases on the benchmark working memory tests I’ve already taken, and somehow increase my IQ to 9000, which would make Vegeta very proud of me. 

Update 3 – Day 21

Today on the way to the track to run, I was doing dual N Back on the bus (there’s great public transportation here in Korea by the way) and I finally passed level 5 to get to level 6! And let me tell you, level 6 is no joke. There are times where my brain gets so overloaded with information that my brain says “screw this” and promptly forgets everything. This means I’ll miss a ton of answers in a row and end up with a terrible score at the end. So far, I’ve been zooming through these levels at a pace of about 1 per week, but I think that’s about to change. I don’t see myself getting past level 6 for at least a few weeks. I’ve got 9 or so days left in this 30 day challenge, and we’ll see if I can pick it up a notch and hit level 7 before then. 

Update 4 – Day 31

Alright, guess what day it is!? It’s day 31 of this challenge, about 1 month since I took those initial benchmark tests on humanbenchmark.com, and it’s time to do those tests again. Over the last 9 days, I still haven’t been able to reach level 7, although I’ve been close a couple of times. You’ve got to hit 80% correct on level 6 to advance, and I’ve gotten in the upper 70s multiple times. I’ve definitely seen tons of improvement on dual n-back, but have I increased my number memory, verbal memory, and visual memory? Here are the average final scores I received: Number Memory = 10, VerbaL Memory = 84, and Visual Memory – 11

Conclusion

So overall, I didn’t see much of an improvement at all. This was a little bit disappointing but it’s something I’ll live with. I was really expecting an increase but it just goes to show that the science is controversial for a reason. Would I recommend doing this challenge to others? Sure, give it a try. The game is quite mentally challenging and fun to play at times. There’s also a possibility that I increased my intelligence in some way that can’t be measured by the simple test on humanbenchmark.com.

Anyways, it was a fun challenge. If you’ve made it this far, then you should look forward to some new challenges I have coming out very soon. Stay tuned amigos.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *