How to do the Dual N-Back Task. Personal experienc...

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How to do the Dual N-Back Task. Personal experience and best practices.

2012-08-05 20:16:16

I started doing Dual N-Back from level 2. It was hard. My D2B rate was about 50% those days. In a couple of months of constant trainings I reached the 7-th level. That may seem great for beginners and not a big deal for some advanced n-backers. Doing that exercises I acquired some good training experience. I also read about how N-Back should and should not be done. So, here I gathered some advices for you.


Training duration and intervals.

Many people starting to do n-back task ask - how many sets do I have to complete in a one day training? Or how long daily session should be?

It is considered that to have a significant effect one should train at least 20 minutes a day. For me the best was 30 minutes of pure training time. It is about 45 minutes in general (counting breaks between sets).

Trainings should be done 5 days a week to let your brain have a rest on the other days.


To chunk or not to chunk

There are two big groups of n-backers - one think that no tactics are allowed. It means that when doing the n-back task you just look at the signals and if you feel the match (sometimes intuitively) - you should press the button. Another group considers tactics as an acceptable way for doing the task. And chunking is the most popular one.

This is how it works.

Chunking in n-back - is a way of remembering signals by grouping them. So, for example, in Dual 2-Back task letters can be remembered in chunks with 2 letters in each chunk, like: K-Q, H-Q, R-S ...


May be on the first levels chunking doesn't help a lot. But on levels 4 and higher it really makes a progress much better. Personally I belong to a second group and can say I'd never reach 7-th level without it.


Trial Time.

Default initial trial time is 3 seconds. It means that signals will be shown every 3 seconds to you. This time is usually enough, but in case it is not you can always change it in the settings.

The only thing not ok with this is warm-up.

By default every new daily session starts from level 2. For higher level players it is done to warm-up before getting to your limit. But starting from D2B with 3 seconds per trial is too long.

To avoid this you can use dynamic trial time setting.

My personal settings for DNB are: 1800 initial time and 50 increment.



There is a number of feedbacks that meditation before N-Backing helps a lot. 

So if you practice meditation try it before doing the N-Back task and you likely to have a much better performance.


That's the most frequent issues I could remember by now.

I'll update the post If something else will come up to my mind.

Please, feel free to ask if you have any questions about doing the N-Back task.


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13 Sep 2012 at 10:56

My close friend's advise is to meditate for some time before N-back task. He said that meditation helped him to reach 8th level.

15 Sep 2012 at 09:21

Thank you, added it to the post.

18 Jan 2013 at 15:46

I'm stuck on level 5, 3 months have passed, it's okay?

18 Jan 2013 at 16:45

Hi Anton, I've answered to your email.

02 Feb 2014 at 22:16

Hi Sergio...

I have a question regarding the 2 types of scores... average score, and top score. It would seem that a person's "top score" is more important because that is the score that is used in the rankings. To me, though, it would make more sense that a person's average score would be more indicative of their working knowledge abilities. I haven't been able to find any information on my question. Would you happen to know anything about this?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

03 Feb 2014 at 09:41

Hi Mike,

I also think that the average score could make a better reflection of the person abilities. But we cannot use it in the ranking board.

The exercise allows you to start training from any level and many players start from the lower level to warm up before reaching their's actual working level. In this case the average level of the session will be lower than of those players who start from the upper levels and the results become incomparable.

However you may track your own results with the average score comparing it with those on the previous training days.

I think it will give more precise picture of the progress on the specific exercise.

Good Luck!

03 Feb 2014 at 15:10

Ah...that makes sense. Thanks a bunch dude!

04 Feb 2014 at 19:44

What is the opinion on the most sensible level to start your training at on a given relation to your average score? For instance, if my cumulative average is 4.83, does it make sense to start my training at level 3? 4?

Much appreciate any opinions on this, especially Sergio, you seem to have a handle on Dual N Back. Thanks for helping!

05 Feb 2014 at 09:07

At the time I was actively doing the task I started from level 2, letting the system automatically increase the level to my limit. (Btw, you may use the Dynamic Trial Time option in the settings to make lower levels work faster)

But I'm not sure If it really makes much sense. If I started to do the task regularly again today, I'd start the daily session from the -2 level of my previous session's best result.

Also to make a better/faster progress I'd suggest to decrease the Threshold advance and Threshold fallback options to 70/40 accordingly (or may be even 60/30 or lower) to get to the next levels early and make the task more challenging and not letting the brain to adapt to the working level.

05 Feb 2014 at 15:39

Excellent...thanks Sergio!