VSL:SCIENCE // Read this, improve your memory

For years, it was assumed that working memory — which accounts for half of our intelligence — is a fixed, immovable asset. But according to The Overflowing Brain, by cognitive neuroscientist Torkel Klingberg, you can upgrade your working memory — if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Working memory is defined by how many fresh bits of information you can keep in mind — and manipulate — at any given time (e.g., an especially complicated set of directions, or the bifurcating possibilities of a chess gambit). Most people max out at five to seven items. But the daily tracking of changing patterns, numbers, and word strings has recently been shown to increase working memory by almost 20 percent — and Klingberg’s book turns that research into a step-by-step regimen that you, too, can follow.

Yes, it’s hard work — which you can get a taste of by trying the diabolical but satisfying “Dual N-Back” exercise (below) — but the rewards are worth the effort: Daily practice brings lasting improvement in general intelligence as well as in specific memory tasks.

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