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Working Memory Training can Influence Brain Biochemistry

I want­ed to alert you to a very inter­est­ing find­ing pub­lished in a recent issue of Sci­ence, one of the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals.

The study was led by Dr. Torkel Kling­berg and his col­leagues from the Karolin­s­ka Insti­tute Torkel Klingbergin Swe­den. The goal was to learn whether Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing is asso­ci­at­ed with changes in brain bio­chem­istry, thus sug­gest­ing a mech­a­nism by which train­ing may lead to enhanced work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty and a reduc­tion in atten­tion prob­lems. Thus, although Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing has pre­vi­ous­ly shown promis­ing results as a treat­ment for work­ing mem­o­ry and atten­tion dif­fi­cul­ties, this was a basic sci­ence study rather than a treat­ment study.

The major find­ing was that increased work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty fol­low­ing train­ing was asso­ci­at­ed with changes in brain bio­chem­istry. Specif­i­cal­ly, the researchers found changes in the den­si­ty and bind­ing poten­tial of cor­ti­cal D1 dopamine recep­tors in brain regions that are acti­vat­ed dur­ing work­ing mem­o­ry tasks.

Results from this study sug­gest a bio­log­i­cal basis for the improve­ment in work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty and reduc­tions in atten­tion prob­lems that have been demon­strat­ed in sev­er­al ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­als of Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing. In addi­tion to this pos­si­ble treat­ment impli­ca­tion, this is the first demon­stra­tion that cog­ni­tive train­ing mod­i­fies basic aspects of brain bio­chem­istry at the lev­el of recep­tor cells. Thus, it is an espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing basic sci­ence find­ing in that it shows that brain bio­chem­istry can be mod­i­fied by expe­ri­ence.

You can lis­ten to an inter­view with Dr. Kling­berg in which he lays out the find­ings from this study in a clear and acces­si­ble man­ner. The inter­view can be accessed Here.

You can also access the entire arti­cle online at Here (opens PDF).

Let me note that the arti­cle is quite tech­ni­cal and that I found lis­ten­ing to Dr. Kling­berg’s inter­view before read­ing it to be quite help­ful.

Rabiner_David– Dr. David Rabin­er is a child clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and Direc­tor of Under­grad­u­ate Stud­ies in the Depart­ment of Psy­chol­ogy and Neu­ro­science at Duke Uni­ver­sity. He pub­lishes Atten­tion Research Update, an online newslet­ter that helps par­ents, pro­fes­sion­als, and edu­ca­tors keep up with the lat­est research on ADHD, and teach­es the online course  How to Nav­i­gate Con­ven­tion­al and Com­ple­men­tary ADHD Treat­ments for Healthy Brain Devel­op­ment.

Relat­ed arti­cles:

- Arti­cle writ­ten by Torkel Kling­berg on The Over­flow­ing Brain & Infor­ma­tion Over­load

- His recent book, which was The Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008: The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­o­ry

- 2006 Inter­view with Dr. Kling­berg: Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing and Cogmed: Inter­view with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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