Improving Working Memory

December 15, 2008

  

     When our brains came into this world they never planned on the Internet, a multi-tasking lifestyle or countless interruptions. Some suspect that genetic alterations passed down over generations have helped our brains adapt…somewhat. The new research on neuroplasticity shows that regular brain workouts can boost our brain power for accommodating to the demands of a changing world.    

     If there is one brain function that we call upon more than ever these days it is our working memory (WM). Without a good, functioning WM we would not be able to keep in mind pieces of information while carrying out another task. We’d constantly be having go back into the dining room to understand what made us walk into the kitchen and open the refrigerator. We’d find ourselves on page 25 of a novel not knowing why certain events are unfolding or what is motivating the protagonist to do or say what she does. It is not uncommon to find WM deficiencies in children and adults with learning and executive function problems. WM  affects  reading comprehension, math reasoning, problem-solving, concentration, response-inhibition and the ability to manage many tasks within a given day – WM plays a sizeable role in our everyday lives.    

    What can we do to improve WM capacity and keep up with the barrage of tasks and information we need to manage every day? Up until recently WM has generally been held to be a fixed property of an individual. However in 1999, Dr. Torkel Klingberg at Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden developed a series of exercises for improving WM, known today as Cogmed Working Memory Training. Several studies later Cogmed Working Memory Training was found to significantly improve WM as indicated by neuropsychological testing and subjective ratings in children and adults with AD/HD, head injury and stroke. The training consists of a specific set of exercises performed from home on a computer five days a week for five weeks, taking about 30-40 minutes daily. Performance on these tasks gradually increases during training. Given that WM supports so many other cognitive functions necessary for success in school and at the workplace, a research-based approach to improving WM is a worthwhile endeavor. 

    For more information see www.Cogmed.com. Cogmed Working Memory Training is now available at Cerulli and Associates.          

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