Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Working Memory Training and RoboMemo: Interview with Dr. Torkel Klingberg

Wikipedia says “Recent stud­ies sug­gest that Work­ing Mem­o­ry can be improved by work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing (Kling­berg et al., 2002)…Per­haps of greater impor­tance, anoth­er study has found after a peri­od of work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing an increase in a range of cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and an increase in IQ test scores of approx­i­mate­ly 8%.”

A search for “Torkel Kling­berg” in PubMed returns 26 papers pub­lished in peer-reviewed pub­li­ca­tions such as the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Child & Ado­les­cent Psy­chi­a­try, Jour­nal of Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science, and Nature Neu­ro­science.

We are hap­py to launch our Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Inter­view Series with an inter­view with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez (AF): Wel­come. Can you let us know where you work, and what your Lab does?

Dr. Torkel Kling­berg (TK): I have a pro­fes­sor­ship at Karolin­s­ka Insti­tute, and lead the Devel­op­men­tal Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Lab, part of the Stock­holm Brain Insti­tute. The lab is address­ing the ques­tions of devel­op­ment and plas­tic­i­ty of work­ing mem­o­ry. We do that through sev­er­al tech­niques, such as fMRI, dif­fu­sion ten­sor imag­ing to look at myeli­na­tion of white mat­ter in the brain, neur­al net­work mod­els of work­ing mem­o­ry and behav­ioral stud­ies. In addi­tion, I am a sci­en­tif­ic advi­sor for Cogmed, the com­pa­ny that devel­oped and com­mer­cial­izes RoboMemo.

AF: What stud­ies have you pub­lished so far? What stud­ies are in the pipeline, and will be pub­lished soon?

TK: You can find a com­plete list, and the stud­ies them­selves, at the lab home­page. Among our stud­ies are three stud­ies on the effect of work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing: Kling­berg et al. 2002, 2005 and Ole­sen et al. 2004. We have recent­ly sub­mit­ted two papers on the effect of train­ing in com­bi­na­tion with med­ica­tion, and the effect of train­ing on school per­for­mance.

AF: What are the high­lights of your research so far?

TK: Our paper from 2004 in Nature Neu­ro­science, on the effect of work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing on brain activ­i­ty, and the 2005 ran­dom­ized, con­trolled clin­i­cal tri­al that showed the impact of work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing specif­i­cal­ly in kids with ADD/ ADHD, have caught most pub­lic atten­tion, includ­ing ref­er­ences in Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can.

My oth­er research con­cerns the neur­al basis for devel­op­ment and plas­tic­i­ty of cog­ni­tive func­tions dur­ing child­hood, in par­tic­u­lar devel­op­ment of atten­tion and work­ing mem­o­ry.
In short, I’d say that we have shown that work­ing mem­o­ry can be improved by train­ing and that such train­ing helps peo­ple with atten­tion deficits and it also improves rea­son­ing abil­i­ty over­all.

AF: What are the effects in every-day life for a child with atten­tion deficits?

TK: When look­ing at the 1,200 chil­dren who have trained in Cogmed’s Stock­holm Clin­ic since start, the most com­mon effects are sus­tained atten­tion, bet­ter impulse con­trol and improved learn­ing abil­i­ty. Par­ents often report that their chil­dren per­form bet­ter in school and are able to keep up a coher­ent con­ver­sa­tion more eas­i­ly after train­ing. Being able to hold back impuls­es, such as anger out­bursts, and keep­ing bet­ter track of one’s things are oth­er every-day life ben­e­fits.

AF: How are you mak­ing the pro­gram avail­able?

TK: All rights are with Cogmed, who is mak­ing this avail­able in Swe­den and start­ing to offer this to select­ed clin­ics in the US this year. The pro­gram is called RoboMemo Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing Pro­gram.

AF: What do you expect that we will learn over the next 5 years in the field of Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams and cog­ni­tive train­ing?

TK: I think that we are see­ing the begin­ning of a new era of com­put­er­ized train­ing for a wide range of appli­ca­tions. Our stud­ies has most­ly been aimed at indi­vid­u­als with marked prob­lems of inat­ten­tion, but there is a wider zone con­cern­ing what you define as atten­tion prob­lems, and we will see how RoboMemo can help a larg­er part of the pop­u­la­tion in improv­ing cog­ni­tive func­tion.

AF: What will you talk about at CHADD?

TK: I will present the data from our pub­lished stud­ies on ADHD, as well as some new data from inde­pen­dent researchers in US uni­ver­si­ties that con­firm our find­ings con­cern­ing the effect of work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing.

AF: You are writ­ing a book, cor­rect? what is it about?

TK: The book is a pop­u­lar sci­ence book about work­ing mem­o­ry, in the lab and in dai­ly life. It will be out in March in Swe­den and we are cur­rent­ly look­ing for a US pub­lish­er.

AF: Dr. Kling­berg, thanks for your time.

TK: My plea­sure.


You may also be inter­est­ed in the fol­low­ing posts
Inter­view with Prof. David Rabin­er on Cog­ni­tive Train­ing and ADD/ ADHD
Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and brain exer­cise
Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing and Atten­tion Deficits

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

26 Responses

  1. Sabrina Anderson says:

    Why is your train­ing so expen­sive? What if a child just gives up after a cou­ple of ses­sions? Wouldn’t any par­ent spend­ing 1500 dol­lars say they see improve­ments in their child? Who wants to think they just wast­ed that much mon­ey? These obser­va­tions seem more sub­jec­tive than any­thing real­ly mea­sur­able.

  2. Alvaro says:

    Dear Sab­ri­na, it is not clear who you are ask­ing that ques­tion to. We don’t pro­vide any prod­uct.

    Let me sug­gest you ask Cogmed and/ or your kid’s clin­i­cal provider.


Leave a Reply

Categories: Attention and ADD/ADHD, Cognitive Neuroscience, Neuroscience Interview Series, Technology

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

All Slidedecks & Recordings Available — click image below

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.