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What is Neuroplasticity?


Did you know Sir Winston Churchill had a learning disability?

"I was, on the whole, considerably discouraged by my school days. It was not pleasant to feel oneself so completely outclassed and left behind at the beginning of the race."
--Sir Winston Churchill

Some other famous people with learning disabilities or ADD:


Training and Plasticity of Working Memory

In a paper published in Trends in Cognitive Science (2010; Vol.14 No.7), Dr. Torkel Klingberg, of the Karolinska institute in Sweden, wrote:

"Working Memory training can induce improvements in performance in non-trained tasks that rely on Working Memory and control of attention.This transfer effect is consistent with training-induced plasticity in an intraparietal-prefrontal network that is common for Working Memory and control of attention. Adaptive training that focuses on control of attention could have similar effects and has shown promising results.
"The observed training effects suggest that Working Memory training could be used as a remediating intervention for individuals for whom low Working Memory capacity is a limiting factor for academic performance or everyday life. The training-induced improvements observed in remembering an instruction or solving mathematical problems underline the potential relevance of such training for education. However, training outside the laboratory setting involves many practical problems, such as assuring compliance over extended periods of training. For shorter training periods and without control of the training quality, there will be negligible effects, as illustrated in a study in which 10 min of unsupervised daily cognitive training three to four times perweek did not result in any measurable cognitive effects."

Improving Fluid Intelligence with Training on Working Memory


In a blog by Andrea Kuszewski on dated Mar 7, 2011, she shares the results of a study published in 2008 by Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides, and Perrig, entitled Improving Fluid Intelligence with Training on Working Memory. Fluid intelligence is defined as your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge as a foundation to solve the next problem, or learn the next new skill, and so on. Although working memory is not synonymous with intelligence, working memory correlates with intelligence to a large degree. She writes:

"...The subjects in Jaeggi's study were trained on an intensive, multimodal (visual and auditory input) working memory task for variable lengths of time, for either one or two weeks, depending on the group. Following this training, they were tested to see how much they improved. As one would expect, after training, their scores on that task got better. But they went a step further. They wanted to see if those gains on the training task could transfer to an increase in skill on a completely different test of cognitive ability, which would indicate an increase in overall cognitive ability. What did they find? Following training of working memory using the dual n-back test, the subjects were indeed able to transfer those gains to a significant improvement in their score on a completely unrelated cognitive task.
"The take-home points from this research? This study is relevant because they discovered:
  1. Fluid intelligence is trainable.
  2. The training and subsequent gains are dose-dependent, meaning, the more you train, the more you gain.
  3. Anyone can increase their cognitive ability, no matter what your starting point is.
  4. The effect can be gained by training on tasks that don't resemble the test questions."