University Of Michigan Logo Listening to Mozart and working crossword puzzles seems to have got traditional. This is because investigators from the University of Michigan have now come up with a new brain training exercise known as n-back training that enhances the capability of an individual to reason and solve problems. This training exercise may have great significance in the health section.

Practicing the task for about 20 minutes each day for 20 days apparently boosts performance on a standard test of fluid intelligence. This improvement apparently lasts for up to three months. The study was conducted on more than 200 young adults and children, demonstrating the effects of various kinds of n-back mental training exercises. The n-back task presumably taps into a crucial brain function known as working memory. The working memory appears to maintain information in an active, easily retrieved state, especially under conditions of distraction or interference. It may be also involved in processing information.

“We found two effects of our training regimen. After training, people had reduced amounts of blood flow in active brain regions when they were doing training tasks. And they had increased amounts of blood flow in those regions when they were not doing training tasks,” explained University of Michigan psychologist John Jonides. “In some ways, this is much like training a muscle in the body, and in some ways, it is different. When new muscle fibers have been grown as a result of training, they require greater blood flow when they are not being used. However, by contrast, when the new muscles are in use, they require more blood, unlike the trained regions of the brain.”

In the n-back task, a series of visual and/or auditory cues are presented to a subject. Then the subject has to respond if that cue has occurred, to start with, one time back. If the subject scores well, the number of times back may be increased in each round. The task can be undertaken with dual auditory and visual cues, or with just one or the other. During the study, it was noted was the more training people have on the dual n-back task, the greater the improvement occurred in fluid intelligence.

The study was presented on May 28 at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C.