Above: the Soak Your Head Dual N-Back Application
I’ve covered research on how most brain training exercises don’t actually hold-up in tests. The good news is that dual n-back training, also covered here previously, is continuing to hold up in tests:
Jonides, who is the Daniel J. Weintraub Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, collaborated with colleagues at U-M, the University of Bern and the University of Tapei on a series of studies with more than 200 young adults and children, demonstrating the effects of various kinds of n-back mental training exercises. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and by the Office of Naval Research.
According to Jonides, the n-back task taps into a crucial brain function known as working memory—the ability to maintain information in an active, easily retrieved state, especially under conditions of distraction or interference. Working memory goes beyond mere storage to include processing information.
Medical Express: A Brain Training Exercise That Really Does Work
Soak Your Head offers a free Web-based n-back training program, but it requires Microsoft Silverlight. You can find a list of other applications here.
Another way to boost your mental capabilities? Play first person shooters. This NPR story provides an overview of the research. You can also find a research paper that looks at multiple studies here (PDF).
The best way to stave off cognitive decline, however, may be to spend time socializing with friends.