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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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