Scientific Basis of IQ Mindware Brain Training

This infographic explains the scientific evidence for brain training for IQ and working memory. Numbers 1 – 6 illustrate the specific neuroplasticity mechanisms that result from IQ Mindware training and below this we can see the three brain networks that benefit from IQ Mindware training.

IQ MIndware Apps to Increase IQ

IQ Mindware apps are based on

  • Developments/optimizations of dual n-back training
  • Interference control training
  • Executive control training (e.g. set switching, irrelevant task interference control, etc).
  • Emotion regulation training (e.g. emotional dual n-back)

Neuroplasticity Mechanisms of Brain Training

1. Strengthened network connections

Increases in white matter structural integrity connecting areas

Takeuchi, H., Sekiguchi, A., Taki, Y., Yokoyama, S., Yomogida, Y., Komuro, N., … Kawashima, R. (2010). Training of Working Memory Impacts Structural Connectivity. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(9), 3297–3303.

2. Grey matter thickness

Increased thickness of cortical grey matter (e.g. synaptogenesis, microglia proliferation, angiogenesis, neurogenesis, capillaries). 

Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Nouchi, R., Hashizume, H., Sekiguchi, A., Kotozaki, Y., … Kawashima, R. (2013). Effects of working memory training on functional connectivity and cerebral blood flow during rest. Cortex, 49(8), 2106–2125.

3. Network tuning

Changes in dynamic functional connectivity by e.g. changes in neural (oscillatory) synchrony or ‘tuning’. (Kundu et al., 2013; Uhlhaas et al., 2009)

Kundu, B., Sutterer, D. W., Emrich, S. M., & Postle, B. R. (2013). Strengthened effective connectivity underlies transfer of working memory training to tests of short-term memory and attention. The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 33(20), 8705–8715.

Uhlhaas, P., Pipa, G., Lima, B., Melloni, L., Neuenschwander, S., Nikolić, D., … Singer, W. (2009). Neural synchrony in cortical networks: history, concept and current status. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 3, 17.

4. Neurotransmitter efficiency

Changes in neurotransmitter receptor density and dopamine release at synapses.

McNab, F., Varrone, A., Farde, L., Jucaite, A., Bystritsky, P., Forssberg, H., & Klingberg, T. (2009). Changes in cortical dopamine D1 receptor binding associated with cognitive training. Science ,323( 5915), 800–802.

Tan, H. Y., Chen, A. G., Kolachana, B., Apud, J. A., Mattay, V. S., Callicott, J. H., … Weinberger, D. R. (2012). Effective connectivity of AKT1-mediated dopaminergic working memory networks and pharmacogenetics of anti-dopaminergic treatment. Brain, 135(5), 1436–1445.

5. Blood supply

Increased capillary density and blood flow in brain networks.

Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Nouchi, R., Hashizume, H., Sekiguchi, A., Kotozaki, Y., … Kawashima, R. (2013). Effects of working memory training on functional connectivity and cerebral blood flow during rest. Cortex, 49(8), 2106–2125.

6. Hormesis response

Adaptive hormesis response: increased production of BDNF growth factor > neurogenesis and synapse formation and protecting existing neurons from cell death.

Mattson, M. P. (2014). Challenging Oneself Intermittently to Improve Health. Dose-Response,12(4), 600–618.

Brain Networks Targeted By Brain Training

Fronto-parietal network (FPN)


Working memory training targets the fronto-parietal network (FPN) which is a neural substrate of fluid intelligence (Thompson et al., 2016; Preusse et al., 2011). The FPN’s brain-wide functional connectivity patterns are more flexible than those of other networks across a variety of tasks.. These patterns are consistent across practiced and novel tasks, suggesting that reuse of flexible hub connectivity patterns facilitates adaptive (novel) task performance. The FPN consists of flexible hubs in cognitive control and adaptive implementation of novel task demands (such as novel problem solving). (Cole et al., 2013).

Cole, M. W., Reynolds, J. R., Power, J. D., Repovs, G., Anticevic, A., & Braver, T. S. (2013). Multi-task connectivity reveals flexible hubs for adaptive task control. Nature Neuroscience,16(9), 1348–1355.

Preusse, F., Elke, van der M., Deshpande, G., Krueger, F., & Wartenburger, I. (2011). Fluid Intelligence Allows Flexible Recruitment of the Parieto-Frontal Network in Analogical Reasoning. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5. 22.

Thompson, T. W., Waskom, M. L., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2016). Intensive Working Memory Training Produces Functional Changes in Large-scale Frontoparietal Networks. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 1–14.


External attention network (EAN)

attention network

Working memory and executive control brain training not only affects the external attention network (Thompson et al., 2016) but by the same mechanism may result in transfer to fluid intelligence (Greenwood & Parasuraman, 2015).

Thompson, T. W., Waskom, M. L., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2016). Intensive Working Memory Training Produces Functional Changes in Large-scale Frontoparietal Networks. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 1–14.

Greenwood, P. M., & Parasuraman, R. (2015). The Mechanisms of Far Transfer From Cognitive Training: Review and Hypothesis.Neuropsychology. [Ahead of print].


Cortico-limbic network

Working memory and executive control training has been shown to result in better emotional regulation, with better attention control in the face of emotionally charged distractors and better capacity to regulate mood.

For example, Cohen and her colleagues, in a study published on Oct 28, 2015, in the journal Neuroimage, found that executive control training can reduce the brain’s emotional reactivity by changing the brain’s ‘hot emotional’ cortico-limbic circuitry to make it less responsive to threatening information.

Cohen, N. et al. (2015). Using Executive Control Training to Suppress Amygdala Reactivity to Aversive Information. NeuroImage. Online publication date: Oct-2015.

Cognitive performance: IQ and working memory

IQ Mindware apps are deeply constrained by the science to ensure that there is real neuroplasticity change and benefits to your cognitive performance and resilience.

A subfactor of IQ is working memory – the capacity of your ‘mental workspace’ –  and we can guarantee substantial working memory gains from 20 days of training, 20 minutes per day. The evidence for this is clear and is reviewed in this article in our research blog HRP

There is also good evidence that training can result in fluid reasoning IQ test gains (e.g. Raven’s Matrices). This is reviewed here.

“Taken together, it is becoming very clear to us that training on WM with the goal of trying to increase fluid intelligence (IQ) holds much promise.” Au et al., 2015

The gains for standard dual n-back training based on meta-analyses of all available well-designed studies indicate – on the lowest estimates – a 3-4 point increase on a fluid intelligence (IQ) test. This is not due to practice or placebo effects. And the latest meta-analysis argues that with optimization this IQ gain is expected to be increased.

“we expect that the results reported in this meta-analysis represent a low-end estimate of the true extent of improvement that n-back training can have on measures of fluid intelligence (IQ)” Au et al., 2015

With our ‘second generation’ n-back apps we predict a 1o+ point IQ increase on independent IQ tests.


Resilience: emotion regulation, anxiety, depression and burnout

Working memory and executive control brain training benefits emotion regulation, and can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and burnout. Results from clinical trials look very promising with impressive effect sizes.

The neuroplasticity effects from brain training target cortico-limbic networks, modifying the signalling of subcortical brain nuclei such as the amygdala.

cortico-limbic system

The evidence for these kinds of training gain with standard working memory and executive control is reviewed here.

In addition we are pioneering brain training with the emotional dual n-back (EQPro, i9), adapting a paradigm developed by Schweizer and colleagues at the University of Cambridge.

They found greater emotion-regulation benefits and more pronounced cortico-limbic neuroplasticity effects from emotional dual n-back training compared to standard dual n-back training. They conclude in their paper Extending Brain-Training to the Affective Domain: Increasing Cognitive and Affective Executive Control through Emotional Working Memory Training:

“Translating this into everyday life, such training may improve participants’ decision making in situations that require the manipulation of emotional material. Moreover, patients with emotional disorders that are characterized by difficulties in exerting cognitive control in order to selectively engage and disengage from affective information may benefit from such training (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders).”

We believe the programs offered by EQPro and i9 that incorporate this kind of emotion content training can benefit emotional regulation and offer an alternative treatment for mental health disorders.