Dual N-Back Working Memory Training in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Comparison to Processing Speed Training

PLoS One. 2016 Apr 4;11(4):e0151817. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151817. eCollection 2016.


Enhancing cognitive ability is an attractive concept, particularly for middle-aged adults interested in maintaining cognitive functioning and preventing age-related declines. Computerized working memory training has been investigated as a safe method of cognitive enhancement in younger and older adults, although few studies have considered the potential impact of working memory training on middle-aged adults. This study investigated dual n-back working memory training in healthy adults aged 30-60. Fifty-seven adults completed measures of working memory, processing speed, and fluid intelligence before and after a 5-week web-based dual n-back or active control (processing speed) training program.

Results: Repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance failed to identify improvements across the three cognitive composites, working memory, processing speed, and fluid intelligence, after training. Follow-up Bayesian analyses supported null findings for training effects for each individual composite. Findings suggest that dual n-back working memory training may not benefit working memory or fluid intelligence in healthy adults. Further investigation is necessary to clarify if other forms of working memory training may be beneficial, and what factors impact training-related benefits, should they occur, in this population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged