Project - Brain Workshop
Press the spacebar, and the level that's about to start appears, most likely called Dual 2-Back. Here you can alter the game mode if you know what you're doing. Press the spacebar a second time, and the level actually starts.
Now strap yourself in, because this game is much more grueling than it first appears. Assuming you have the game set to its defaults, two stimuli will be coming at you: positions and audio. The former appears in the guise of a blue square, appearing randomly in any of the nine squares. The latter takes place as letters, spoken out loud by a female voice that just happens to sound like the one used on almost all computer systems in every futuristic sci-fi movie ever made.
As this is happening, you control the game with only two keys: A and L. Let go of the mouse, and let your left hand rest on A and your right hand on L. Now, I'll explain how the game actually works.
Each level has a series of three-second Trials. The first Trial will have the square appear in one of the boxes in tandem with a spoken letter. The second Trial will have the square in another box with another spoken letter. These first two Trials don't require you to do anything, but instead provide the information for the following Trials.
Given this default mode is “2-Back”, the information provided in the first Trial is the basis for testing against in the third Trial. The information in the second Trial is for testing against the fourth, and so on. Now, let's examine the third Trial and onward, where the actual game begins.
Was the position of the blue block the same as the first Trial? If so, press the A key. Was the letter the same? If so, press L. Each Trial may have a combination of both position and letter, or just the one, or even no matches.
As you can see, this game mode is all about remembering what happened two Trials ago. This sounds easy, but each stimulus acts independently of the other, so most of the time, the letter and position won't land in the same place. This means your memory has to split in two different directions—multitasking in memory. Does that sound tricky? Believe me, it is. I'd even go so far as to call it intense.
Chances are you'll get a bad score, but that's okay. The manual recommends starting with a game of 1-Back, but I thought I'd start you off with the harder mode because I'm mean like that! If you want to alter the difficulty, prior to starting a level is a list of options at the top left where you can increase/decrease the N-Back number (try 1 for instance), the number of trials, change the speed and so on.
That's all I have space for here, but if you want more information, check out the game's documentation available at the main menu. I recommend looking into the game's more-advanced features, such as color and image testing, arithmetic and more.
All in all, this is one of the most grueling brain exercises I've come across, and anyone looking to improve specific areas of memory definitely should try Brain Workshop.
Find out more at brainworkshop.sourceforge.net
John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.