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Working Memory Training

Reminder: 60 or so sci­ence blog­gers are cel­e­brat­ing the Week of Sci­ence pre­sent­ed at Just Sci­ence, from Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 5, through Sun­day, Feb­ru­ary 11. We will be writ­ing about “just sci­ence” this week, by dis­cussing peer-reviewed research papers in the field of brain fit­ness.

Yes­ter­day we talked about Cog­ni­tive Reserve and Lifestyle, a paper and research area that helps build the case for men­tal stimulation/ brain exer­cise if we care about long-term healthy aging.

Today we will approach the sub­ject of cog­ni­tive train­ing from the oppo­site cor­ner: we will dis­cuss imme­di­ate ben­e­fits of train­ing for qual­i­ty of life and per­for­mance in chil­dren with ADD/ ADHD. Some of the most promis­ing effects seen are those that show how work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing can gen­er­al­ize into bet­ter com­plex rea­son­ing (mea­sured by Ravens), inhi­bi­tion (Stroop) and ADD/ ADHD symp­toms rat­ings, beyond WM improve­ments.

Our main char­ac­ter: Dr. Torkel Kling­berg, whom we had the for­tune to inter­view last Sep­tem­ber (full notes at Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing and RoboMemo: Inter­view with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg), and who has since received the preti­gious Philip’s Nordic Prize.

We high­light some of the inter­view notes:

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: 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.

Here you have some blog arti­cles you may be inter­est­ed in to bet­ter put this research in per­spec­tive:

Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing and Atten­tion Deficits

Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science and ADD/ADHD Today

Cog­ni­tive Train­ing and ADD/ADHD: Inter­view with Prof. David Rabin­er, Senior Research Sci­en­tist and the Direc­tor of Psy­chol­o­gy and Neu­ro­science Under­grad­u­ate Stud­ies at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty.

And here you can down­load all Pub­li­ca­tions list­ed below:

Macov­eanu, J, Kling­berg, T, Teg­nr J (2006) A bio­phys­i­cal mod­el of mul­ti­ple-item work­ing mem­o­ry: a com­pu­ta­tion­al and neu­roimag­ing study. Neu­ro­science, 141(3): 1611–1618.

Ole­sen, P, Macov­eanu, J, Teg­nr J, Kling­berg, T (2006) Brain activ­i­ty relat­ed to work­ing mem­o­ry and dis­trac­tion in chil­dren and adults. Cere­bral Cor­tex, E-pub­li­ca­tion ahead of print, June 26.

Kling­berg, T (2006) Devel­op­ment of a supe­ri­or frontal-intra­pari­etal net­work for visuo-spa­tial work­ing mem­o­ry. Neu­ropsy­cholo­gia, 44(11): 2171–2177.

Kling­berg, T, Fer­nell, E, Ole­sen, P, John­son, M, Gustafs­son, P, Dahlstrm, K, Gill­berg, CG, Forss­berg, H, West­er­berg, H (2005) Com­put­er­ized train­ing of work­ing mem­o­ry in chil­dren with ADHD  a ran­dom­ized, con­trolled tri­al. Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Child and Ado­les­cent Psy­chi­a­try, 44(2): 177–186.

Nagy Z, Lind­strm, K, West­er­berg, H, Skare, S, Ander­s­son, J, Hall­berg, B, Lager­crantz, H, Kling­berg, T, Fer­nell, E (2005) Dif­fu­sion ten­sor imag­ing on teenagers, born at term with mod­er­ate hypox­ic-ischemic encephalopa­thy. Pedi­atric Research, 58(5): 936–940.

Nagy, Z, West­er­berg, H, Kling­berg, T (2004) Mat­u­ra­tion of white mat­ter is asso­ci­at­ed with the devel­op­ment of cog­ni­tive func­tions dur­ing child­hood. Jour­nal of Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science, 16(7): 1227–1233.

West­er­berg, H, Hirvikos­ki, T, Forss­berg, H Kling­berg, T (2004) Visuo-spa­tial work­ing mem­o­ry span: a sen­si­tive mea­sure of cog­ni­tive deficits in chil­dren with ADHD. Child Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy, 10(3): 155–161.

Ole­sen, P, West­er­berg, H, Kling­berg, T (2004) Increased pre­frontal and pari­etal brain activ­i­ty after train­ing of work­ing mem­o­ry. Nature Neu­ro­science, 7(1): 75–79.

Ole­sen, P, Nagy, Z, West­er­berg, H, Kling­berg, T (2003) Com­bined analy­sis of DTI and fMRI data reveals a joint mat­u­ra­tion of white and grey mat­ter in a fron­to-pari­etal net­work. Cog­ni­tive Brain Research, 18(1): 48–57.

Nagy, Z, West­er­berg, H, Skare, S, Ander­s­son, JL, Fer­nell, E, Holm­berg, K, Bhm, B, Forss­berg, H, Lager­crantz, H, Kling­berg, T (2003) Preterm chil­dren have dis­tur­bances of white mat­ter at 11 years of age as shown by dif­fu­sion ten­sor imag­ing. Pae­di­atric Research, 54(5): 672–679.

Kling­berg, T, Forss­berg, H, West­er­berg, H (2002) Train­ing of Work­ing Mem­o­ry in Chil­dren with ADHD. Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal and Exper­i­men­tal Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy, 24(6): 781–791.

Kling­berg T, Forss­berg H, West­er­berg H (2002) Increased brain activ­i­ty in frontal and pari­etal cor­tex under­lies the devel­op­ment of visu­ospa­tial work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty dur­ing child­hood. Jour­nal of Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science, 14(1): 1–10.

Bunge SA, Kling­berg T, Jacob­sen RB, Gabrieli JDE (2000) A resource mod­el of the neur­al basis of exec­u­tive work­ing mem­o­ry. Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, 97(7): 3573–3578.

Kling­berg T, Hede­hus M, Tem­ple E, Salz T, Gabrieli JDE, Mose­ley ME, Pol­drack RA (2000) Microstruc­ture of Tem­poro-Pari­etal White Mat­ter as a Basis for Read­ing Abil­i­ty : Evi­dence from Dif­fu­sion Ten­sor Mag­net­ic Res­o­nance Imag­ing. Neu­ron, 25(2): 493–500.

Kling­berg T, (2000) Lim­i­ta­tions in infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing in the human brain: neu­roimag­ing of dual-task per­for­mance and work­ing mem­o­ry tasks. Progress in Brain Research, 126: 95–102.

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