Brain Training Programs | Brain Fitness Pro | Reviews
Mind Tweaks - Tori Deaux
Brain Training Programs | Brain Fitness Pro | Review
Tori Deaux, MindTweaks
"N-Backing & MindSparke-ing: What it is, why you should do it."
All About N-Back
"Sometime last year, I read about a somewhat confusing, yet convincing technique of brain training, complete with a rather unfriendly name that only a scientist mother could love: "The Dual Task N-Back".
"The name amounts to a mathematical description of the actual task: The "dual" part refers to audio and visual elements of the task. "N" is a variable whole number. Add in the "back" bit, and you begin to realize this is about identifying those audio/visual elements that match those shown N many elements back from the current one. (Does this sound a bit like the new season of LOST to anyone else? No? )
"And no, it isn't any easier to do n-back tests than it is to explain them ;)
"But here's the impressive bit: training with this method appears to increase fluid intelligence.
"In a limited trial, 34 subjects trained with dual n-back exercises for 25 minutes a day, for 19 days; they were given IQ tests at the beginning and the end of the trial period. The results? An astounding average increase in performance on an IQ test, markedly better than the control group.
"These results had the brain fitness folks really buzzing when the report came out,and for good reason. Ordinarily, training in task-related tests only improves performance on that particular (or related) task. But the n-back method appears to have increased mental function in a broader way. The researchers speculate that the n-back task perhaps increases working memory, attention span and/or focus,but it's too early to be certain exactly what's behind the improvement, or how long it sticks around.
"And That Brings Us To MindSparke
"Mind Sparke is a non-nonsense, straight-forward software implementation of the dual N-back training protocol based on the research study mentioned above.
"This is some serious brain training, folks - no chirping birds, roaring monsters or whining penguins included. The user interface is purely functional, without so much as a fancy font or drop shadow to distract you. The only color to be found is if you opt to display your keystrokes - a little red or blue A for audio, V for visual will appear.
"The visual stimulus is simple squares that show up as white on black. The voices that pronounce the audio portion (letters from the alphabet) are a nondescript but pleasant enough male and female.
"The results of each block is displayed on the "home" screen, so as you progress through each session, you'll see your hits, misses, and the current value of "N" -- which will change according to your success level. Your improvement over time is displayed as a graph on the "history" screen. (I haven't gotten far in my own training, so the graph below is a screen shot grabbed from the MindSparke website.)
"There is no demo version of MindSparke available, and for good reason, n-back training is very challenging, even frustrating at first.
"It's tough to imagine someone downloading a trial, doing a few blocks and saying WOW I want this! It takes a bit of discipline and determination to get through those first few sessions. But there is a pretty impressive money back guarantee offered on the website.
"'If after 10 days you don't notice a difference in the clarity, speed and power of your thinking we'll give you a full refund plus $40 toward another brain fitness product of your choice.'
"Not bad at all!
"How The Program Works
"The software will walk you through 19 sessions, of 20 blocks each. Each block contains a number of different position and letter combinations. When you see a match, you type the letter A. when you hear a match, you type the letter L.
"When it begins, you'll start with n equal to 2, meaning you'll be matching items 2 places back. For example, you might hear the letters "B G A F G F B". With n=2, you'd hit the L key when you heard the second F, because the letter F matches 2 places back.
"Once you've had success with n=2, the program will automatically step you up to n=3. Now, hearing those same letters, you'd hit the L key on the second G: "B G A F G F B" because the G is a match for the letter 3 places back.
"The software will automatically adjust the difficulty up and down according to your performance, and the current n= value will be displayed on screen at all times. Each block takes about 1 or 2 minutes, each session about 30 (depending on how long you break between blocks).
"Confused? Yeah, me too. But it makes more sense when you start actually working with the program.
"So, Why Should You N-Back?
"This is a different sort of brain training. It's intense, focused, and very challenging, and the benefits appear to be pretty remarkable. Outside of the original study and the associated improvement on IQ tests, users of MindSparke seem to be reporting that it helps their mental focus and attention significantly.
"So if you're intrigued by the concept of formal brain-training programs, but find the game-centric industry a bit too light and fluffy for your taste - give this approach a whirl.
"MindSparke should appeal to more science-centric MindTweakers, as well as to choleric, no-nonsense personalities who have had enough of cutesy brain games. I also suspect that MindSparke is well suited for younger, more mentally active folks, who may not feel challenged enough by programs targeted towards seniors.
"It's affordably priced, too
"I'll be writing up more personal successes and struggles I've had with n-backing in a day or so, but for now, you can go and read Erin's experiences over at Brain Training 101. She's nearly through her 19 days, and is seeing pretty remarkable results. (While you're there, be sure and check out her interview with MindSparke founder, Martin Walker.)
"I took a Mensa home test prior to the training and didn't pass. Then I did the IQ increase training course, took the actual Mensa test, and got in!" - Anne, Harvard, MD
"[My] full scale IQ has been verified as 151, an IQ increase of at least 21 points." - Lloyd
"I was better able to concentrate and focus on the task at hand without being distracted." - Mike, Counselor
"I’m impressed with this software. I have Inattentive ADD and I’m happy with the gains I’ve made in a short space of time. The program is helping me to pay sustained attention." - 'Scatterbrain'
"I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your product. I have suffered from OCD over the course of my life and have tried various methods of treatment. Using your program has allowed me to function at my highest level in years. I am extremely grateful for the work you have done." - Michael
"After years of not remembering my bank account number, it simply came to me with certainty when I needed it." - Steve
"I'm still seeing slow continuous improvement in my scores. I have felt and seen the difference that clearer thinking can make in day to day and professional life." - Will
"My [MCAT] score jumped from a 27 to a 34.
I was pretty astounded by the results..." - Anson, Grad Student - Test Prep
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