In the news recently, a novel kind of brain training game had been shown to work for the first time, and surprised everyone with its novel way of increasing fluid intelligence. This mental exercise limbers up the brain’s overall capacity to solve problems.
The scientists who developed the game all believed it can be a boon to education for the simple reason that it paved the way to improve one’s overall intellectual performance.
The new computer-based brain training method designed to improve working memory also managed to increase scores in “fluid intelligence” or general problem-solving ability.
What surprised the other scientists and psychologists was the fact that in practice, the only way to increase fluid intelligence is through direct practice of the tests themselves.
This time, however, the work of Drs. Jaeggi and Buschkuhl and colleagues overturned this long-held view.
Their brain training method increased fluid intelligence scores simply by training. The ability to improve fluid intelligence has been termed by Dr.Jaeggi as “the ability to reason and to flexibly adapt to new situations.”
Dr. Jaeggi and colleagues gave 35 volunteers a series of training exercises designed to improve memory and 35 more to a control group. Participants saw a sequence of squares appearing one after the other on the computer every 3 seconds.
The goal was to decide whether the currently-seen square was at the same position as the one somewhere in the sequence. Was it the same as the one two or more positions ago?
At the same time, participants heard spoken letters and their task was the same as the one in the visual form, only this time it was spoken (in audio). The process is actually two independent modality streams running simultaneously.
The tasks were adapted in a way that when participants performed well, the task became harder. If participants performed badly, the task becomes easier. In effect, the task always matched the processing abilities of the participants.
After the tests (conducted extensively on 4 groups, etc.), the trained subjects showed a significant improvement: they could move from solving over 9 problems to 12.
Afterwards, the more the participants trained, the more problems they could solve in the post-test, a significant and surprising 40% improvement.
In education, transfer effects are central to the system. The assumption is that what we learn in school we will apply later sometime in our life in the future.
In the research test, there was tangible transfer, most pronounced on tests with children. The transfer was the most exciting part of the research.
Brain training puzzles
In many newspapers today, there are many brain training puzzles found. There are new generations, too, of video games and consoles such as the Nintendo DS in the hope that they can keep alert the elderly minds.
Many of these will no doubt improve memory and there is now speed in solving puzzles like the Sudoku. There are some, like the good old crosswords, that expand vocabulary.
The elderly have been known to benefit from some software exercises also that improve memory.
Brain training is now getting closer and closer to finally make giant strides in helping fight some old brain nemesis as Alzheimer’s and dementia.