View Full Version : Working Memory Training -- Plasticity


Letching Gray
01-18-17, 12:53 AM
[MODERATOR NOTE: This thread was split off from another thread about famous people who may or may not have ADHD (http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=61233). - Namazu]

Finally, some good news for everyone and ADHDers in particular. Working memory is not exactly our greatest strength. However, new research into our ability to improve WM seems promising.

Torkel Klingberg: Development and plasticity of working memory.

He has demonstrated that we can make gains on WM tests through practice and retain those improvements over time. WM is critical for overall cognitive functioning. Children, practicing on computers for about 1 hour a day, M-F, for 4 or 5 weeks in a row, showed statistically significant changes.

This is revolutionary news. The brain's plasticity, or changeability, has been recognized now for a while. To make improvements in areas of cognitive performance through "exercising" specific processing functions is breakthrough science.

Letching Gray
01-18-17, 01:23 AM
A quick way to get started training the WM function our brains is to play the game "Concentration" which is available online for free.

Dawg Man! We are living in exciting times.

Letching Gray
01-18-17, 03:09 AM
A quick way to get started training the WM function our brains is to play the game "Concentration" which is available online for free.

Dawg Man! We are living in exciting times.


These early training studies seemed to provide support
for the static view of WM formulated by Miller in his article
‘The magic number seven’ [5]. However, subsequent
research has shown that training can improve performance
in a wide range of functions and that this improved performance
is associated with neuronal changes from the
intracellular level to functional organization of the cortex
[6]. Training on motor [7] and perceptual tasks [8] in
animals leads after hundreds of trials to enhanced performance,
with concomitant changes in synaptic connectivity
in both sensory and motor areas. Plasticity has also
been demonstrated in the prefrontal cortex in animals [9].

Torkel Klingberg


Seems to me to be too cool. I suppose this data belongs in another category, but, good news nonetheless.

sarahsweets
01-18-17, 05:03 AM
I was always under the impression that all brain training exercises did was train you to do well on those exercises and that they didnt actually affect how your brain physically worked?

Letching Gray
01-18-17, 05:35 PM
Me too. That's why it was exciting to see him interpret the data favorably. Yet, as I continue to read the literature, the issue becomes less clear once again.

What happened is this: a major player in the field of publishing educational testing material worth billions is trying to sell his training software to schools and psychologists. A few, who have purchased and used the product, have reported less than stellar results, while others reported important measurable gains.

Torkel Klingberg, the scientist who created the training protocol, concluded that those tested under his authority showed statistically significant improvement in WM and other sub-testing categories.

I'll do more homework.

namazu
01-18-17, 06:48 PM
This review (http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/dev-ofp-melby-lervag.pdf) might be of interest. I think there may have been a more recent review or metanalysis that came to similar conclusions, but I'd have to dig for it.

The results I've seen so far suggest that working memory training does produce clear gains in performance on the programs themselves, but that, in general, those skills don't carry over meaningfully to real life situations.

There is still a dearth of high-quality studies out there, and especially of studies conducted by researchers who don't have vested interests in promoting particular programs. I won't malign his ethics, but Torkel Klingberg founded CogMed, probably got a hefty sum when he sold it to Pearson (which is the education-industry equivalent of a pharmaceutical company giant -- maybe bigger), and still serves as their (presumably paid) scientific advisor. The model of compensation for clinicians who offer CogMed as a "boutique" treatment troubles me somewhat as well.

I do think (and hope) there may be some future in this type of treatment approach. As someone who's had a less-than-optimal response to meds over the 20+ years I've been diagnosed and treated, I'd love to see it succeed. But I'd like to see well-designed studies conducted by independent research groups that demonstrate generalizability of the trained skills.

Letching Gray
01-19-17, 12:30 AM
"WM training can induce improvements in performance in
non-trained tasks that rely on WM and control of attention.
This transfer effect is consistent with traininginduced
plasticity in an intraparietal–prefrontal network
that is common for WM and control of attention. Adaptive
training that focuses on control of attention could
have similar effects and has shown promising results
[65]." Klingberg

You got it Namazu. Hit the nail on the head. Now, if he's legitimate, if his research is on the level, his results will be repeatable. I think it's likely he's for real, for a couple reasons. He's meticulous. He's been involved for quite a while doing serious research, and I doubt CogMed is sticking its neck out to try to hustle their intended targeted customers, risking a rash of lawsuits, you know? Listening to him lecture, he comes across as an academic and not an entrepreneur, but buyer beware.

Free to Fly
01-19-17, 12:44 AM
Looking forward to reading more.

Letching Gray
01-19-17, 12:48 AM
UPDATE
Most recent documentation I could find.
Published in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
April 2016, Vol. 28, No. 4, Pages: 575-588
Posted Online February 29, 2016.
(doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00916)
© 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Intensive Working Memory Training Produces Functional Changes in Large-scale Frontoparietal Networks

Todd W. Thompson1,2*, Michael L. Waskom1,3*, and John D. E. Gabrieli1
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2 Harvard Medical School

3 Stanford University

*These authors contributed equally to this work.

"Working memory is central to human cognition, and intensive cognitive training has been shown to expand working memory capacity in a given domain. It remains unknown, however, how the neural systems that support working memory are altered through intensive training to enable the expansion of working memory capacity. We used fMRI to measure plasticity in activations associated with complex working memory before and after 20 days of training. Healthy young adults were randomly assigned to train on either a dual n-back working memory task or a demanding visuospatial attention task. Training resulted in substantial and task-specific expansion of dual n-back abilities accompanied by changes in the relationship between working memory load and activation. Training differentially affected activations in two large-scale frontoparietal networks thought to underlie working memory: the executive control network and the dorsal attention network. Activations in both networks linearly scaled with working memory load before training, but training dissociated the role of the two networks and eliminated this relationship in the executive control network. Load-dependent functional connectivity both within and between these two networks increased following training, and the magnitudes of increased connectivity were positively correlated with improvements in task performance. These results provide insight into the adaptive neural systems that underlie large gains in working memory capacity through training."

M.I.T., Harvard and Stanford

Interesting. I've wished there would be a way to increase cognitive performance by some form dedicated, purposeful effort. Who knew?

sarahsweets
01-19-17, 05:07 AM
I doubt CogMed is sticking its neck out to try to hustle their intended targeted customers, risking a rash of lawsuits, you know? Listening to him lecture, he comes across as an academic and not an entrepreneur, but buyer beware.
I think its entirely possible that they would hustle their intended customers. Lawsuits dont scare mega companies.

Letching Gray
01-19-17, 05:52 AM
I think its entirely possible that they would hustle their intended customers. Lawsuits dont scare mega companies.


No? You don't think so? I think their stockholders care about lawsuits. With the phenomenal costs involved defending a corporation in litigation, I think most companies try to avoid lawsuits like the plague, if they can. Plus, what business objective makes sense, what is their money making strategy, if their product won't sell because it's faulty? If it tarnishes their reputation?

If you look at the info out of M.I.T., it is pretty impressive. Anyway, man would that be cool if we could work at improving WM? If we could exercise our brain muscles and make progress in our cognitive capacities? :)

Letching Gray
01-19-17, 06:35 AM
What these guys are doing is incredible. To study the inner workings of the human brain down to the neuronal level! Who'd a thunk it a hundred years ago? I bet in 25 years we will be able to distinguish one thought from another as we watch live on 3D screens. We'll see in real time the brain thinking individual thoughts, the swirling of 10 gazillion electro-chemical bursts and pulses and discharges inside the sodium ion channels of dendrites and axons, as individual ideas are crafted in microseconds, all within a 3 lb. flesh and blood mass: the most complex and wonderful computer by far in all the world. And lovin it. I'll be long gone but you kids will be around to marvel at that.

Letching Gray
01-20-17, 01:01 AM
I have begun playing "concentration" online. Even by myself, I get embarrassed how poorly I do at this nightmare of a "game". I'm pretty sure my secret archenemy from the dark world of fiends and dragons fixes the squares so they don't match, even when they did 2 seconds earlier. No one can be this bad!

Fraser_0762
01-20-17, 01:07 AM
Training the brain physically alters the brain structure. Everytime you learn new things, the brain creates new neural pathways and connections (while erasing old ones, which is why you forget things as well)

Training the brain won't cure a chemical imbalance, it will however help the brain to develop clever techniques for coping with such imbalances.

The way I see it. If you can't learn how to do something the same way as everybody else does it, then discover a different way of doing it.

sarahsweets
01-20-17, 05:50 AM
No? You don't think so? I think their stockholders care about lawsuits. With the phenomenal costs involved defending a corporation in litigation, I think most companies try to avoid lawsuits like the plague, if they can. Plus, what business objective makes sense, what is their money making strategy, if their product won't sell because it's faulty? If it tarnishes their reputation?

If you look at the info out of M.I.T., it is pretty impressive. Anyway, man would that be cool if we could work at improving WM? If we could exercise our brain muscles and make progress in our cognitive capacities? :)

The only thing that comes to mind atm is that thing with LUMINOSITY, I forget exactly if they were fined or something but they were investigated and found that there was little to no science to back up their claims and the way they advertised their product and services so they got in trouble. Doesnt seem to matter though because everytime I listen to NPR I hear about the same claims when they sponsor a segment.

Little Missy
01-20-17, 10:13 AM
The best working memory training I ever found was going to college.

Letching Gray
01-20-17, 11:36 AM
The only thing that comes to mind atm is that thing with LUMINOSITY, I forget exactly if they were fined or something but they were investigated and found that there was little to no science to back up their claims and the way they advertised their product and services so they got in trouble. Doesnt seem to matter though because everytime I listen to NPR I hear about the same claims when they sponsor a segment.

Exactly. I've heard the same ads and the same information about their claims being unsubstantiated. But, having read some more about the kinds of results others have documented, published by the finest universities in the world, I'm hopeful there's a chance we may, in fact, be able to increase our WM and use those improvements across the board.

Scientists do know that certain chemicals enhance brain function on the neuronal level. There's widespread agreement on that. We know that we can isolate and exercise, by repeated use, specific parts of our brains. It is logical they would somehow "learn" to adapt or adjust to the increased load. Our bodies do that all the time.

The brain is pretty smart! Why couldn't it figure out that an area under constant strain-for an hour a day, say, during WM training-needs some reinforcements, a boost of additional synapses and axons to help carry the load? I kind of think it can and we're on the verge of a breakthrough in understanding and improving our powers of cognition.

Letching Gray
01-23-17, 02:50 AM
I notice doing worse on "Concentration" games over time during one sitting. I do better the first few games I play and then my brain seems to poop out if do more. Fascinating.

Lunacie
01-23-17, 12:18 PM
I notice doing worse on "Concentration" games over time during one sitting. I do better the first few games I play and then my brain seems to poop out if do more. Fascinating.

I'm like this with most games, and really anything I do.

At first it's interesting and I get really involved and do well enough to continue.

Then I get frustrated because I'm not improving quickly enough. *sigh*

finallyfound10
01-23-17, 02:20 PM
I am going to try this and I'll let you know how it goes.

Letching Gray
01-24-17, 02:49 AM
Interestingly, (because it should be obvious) I see a connection between my impulsive drive to hurry through the game (ADHD) the lack of spending enough time on each figure to allow it to sink in, and doing poorly. Or, IOW, inattentiveness whatever is causing it, is at least a component in my WM problems. I've got to direct and hold my attention long enough first on each "turning over" of the flap, which reveals what's on the other side, to have a shot a recalling it. If I don't do that, I can't expect to be able to match it. DUH!! I know, but if I wasn't getting help for my ADHD, I wouldn't have noticed this.

Taking my eye off the tennis ball before striking it, sabotages my best effort to get it over the net. If I fail to get it over the net, I lose. That simple.

Letching Gray
01-24-17, 03:28 AM
The more reading I do, the more I find research that supports the principle that exercising WM pays dividends. They are fine tuning experiments to understand precisely what is happening, how much time is needed per day practicing, how often each week and for how many weeks and they are examining which questions are relevant.

Letching Gray
01-26-17, 08:01 AM
I can play solitaire virtually forever. "Concentration" exhausts me in minutes. I used to play ball. Whenever I found an exercise or type of weight lifting getting under my skin, I learned to focus on it. It wasn't what I enjoyed or what kind of work-out that didn't bother me that needed improvement, as much as those that revealed weaknesses. This "Concentration' game gets on my nerves and it always did. Never put 2 plus 2 together, before. I've got my work cut out for me.

Letching Gray
04-12-17, 01:26 AM
I can play solitaire virtually forever. "Concentration" exhausts me in minutes. I used to play ball. Whenever I found an exercise or type of weight lifting getting under my skin, I learned to focus on it. It wasn't what I enjoyed or what kind of work-out that didn't bother me that needed improvement, as much as those that revealed weaknesses. This "Concentration' game gets on my nerves and it always did. Never put 2 plus 2 together, before. I've got my work cut out for me.


Practice, practice, practice. More practice. Guys with traumatic brain injuries have developed mental faculties they never knew they had and showed no interest in. Virtuosos. :D

Fuzzy12
04-12-17, 03:34 AM
I used to play spider solitaire for hours. It would drive me absolutely crazy because I thought I was easting time doing something that's mildly amusing at beat rather than doing something that's useful or lots of fun but requires me to shift my attention.

As far as I know working memory is fixed to either 4 or 7 items at a time (I've seen both). You can't really increase that but you can learn more efficient ways of chunking: grouping things so they form one item. That's a skill that might be transferable in terms of memorising different types of lists but if it would also help while doing completely different tasks that require wm (eg arithmetic) im not sure. From what I've learnt no it wouldn't.

I wonder if working memory can be improved to 4 (or 7) items if you have adhd.

Greyhound1
04-13-17, 11:45 PM
I wonder if working memory can be improved to 4 (or 7) items if you have adhd.

I think so and possibly more if all those items are shiny, very interesting or memorable.:D