When it comes to memory training, some methods are better than others; however, no method will make the trainee any smarter. That’s according to new research from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. Researchers at the foundation compared the two most common training methods used to improve memory and attention, complex span tests and dual n-back tests. They found the latter was twice as effective as the former in memory recall and improving focus, actually changing levels of brain activity in the regions associated with high-level thinking. Complex span tests involve a subject remembering the location of an item despite distraction, and dual n-back tests involve subjects watching a sequence of spatial patterns and letters of the alphabet, then recalling the patterns and letters at a particular position in the sequence. The n-back group showed a 30 percent improvement in working memory, nearly twice as much as those who participated in complex span training. Unfortunately, these “brain games” do little to make anyone smarter. The changes in the higher-level thinking regions of the brain didn't help the n-back group score higher on measures of overall intelligence, researchers say. "Brain training is still in its early stages," Kara Blacker, the study's lead author says. "We're still trying to figure out what these programs are doing."


 

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