There are a lot of people that will tell you those brain training games won't make you any smarter, and that's true for the most part. But a recent study suggests you can boost your brain power with the right type of focused training.
The study, from Johns Hopkins University, and published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, suggests there is one beneficial exercise people can do which targets a specific part of your brain that's responsible for short-term memory, the pre-frontal cortex.
According to the researchers, doing the exercise on a regular basis can improve that type of memory, which in turn can help you excel at some basic tasks. They believe a stronger short-term memory can be beneficial for simple things like remember phone numbers and directions, as well as more vital problem solving skills needed to perform well at school and work.
So what's the exercise? It's called a "dual n-back" memory sequence test, where you're required to remember a constantly updating sequence of both visual and auditory stimuli. For this study, the test involved participants watching squares flashing on a grid while hearing letters, and as time went on, the test got harder. Basically, it's the classic kid's electronic game Simon, but harder. You can see an example of test in the video above.
Lead author of the study Kara J. Backer says people either believe cognitive training works or they don't, but there's more to it than that:
"We showed that it matters what kind of training you're doing. This one task seems to show the most consistent results and the most impact on performance and should be the one we focus on if we're interested in improving cognition through training."
The researchers now hope to better understand why "dual n-back" works so well, as well as well as how they can make it even more effective. The next step could be turning exercise into a marketable or clinically useful brain training program.