Brain training increases dopamine release

It is known that training can improve working memory. In a new study in Science, researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Umeå University, Åbo Akademi University, and the University of Turku show for the first time that working-memory training is associated with an increased release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in specific brain regions.

" training resulted in increased dopamine release in the caudate, a region located below the neocortex, in which the dopaminergic influx is particularly large", says Lars Bäckman, Professor at Karolinska Institutet, and one of the scientists behind the study. "This observation demonstrates the importance of dopamine for improving working-memory performance."

In the study, 10 young Finnish men were trained in updating working memory for five weeks by means of a letter-memory task. The participants were presented with 7 to 15 letters during 45 minutes three times per week on a screen that was turned off after presentation. The task was to remember the last four letters in the sequence in correct order. (The training programme can be found on-line, see link further down)

Compared to a control group that did not receive any training, the trained group showed a gradual improvement of working-memory performance. Results from a PET scan demonstrated an increased release of dopamine in the caudate after training. In addition, dopamine release was seen during the letter-memory task also before training; this release increased markedly after training.

Further, improvements after training were demonstrated in an untrained task that also requires updating.

"These findings suggest that the improved working memory generally", says Professor Lars Nyberg at Umeå University.

Related Stories

Cognitive training can alter the biochemistry of the brain

Feb 06, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have shown for the first time that the active training of the working memory brings about visible changes in the number of dopamine receptors ...

A brain training exercise that really does work

May 30, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Forget about working crossword puzzles and listening to Mozart. If you want to improve your ability to reason and solve new problems, just take a few minutes every day to do a maddening little exercise ...

Recommended for you

Discovery hints at why stress is more devastating for some

3 hours ago

Some people take stress in stride; others are done in by it. New research at Rockefeller University has identified the molecular mechanisms of this so-called stress gap in mice with very similar genetic backgrounds—a ...

Family dinners reduce effects of cyberbullying in adolescents

15 hours ago

Sharing regular family meals with children may help protect them from the effects of cyberbullying, according to a study by McGill professor Frank Elgar, Institute for Health and Social Policy. Because family meal times represent ...

The Edwardians were also fans of brain training

21 hours ago

Brain-training programmes are all the rage. They are part of a growing digital brain-health industry that earned more than US$1 billion in revenue in 2012 and is estimated to reach US$6 billion by 2020. The extent to which they actually improve brain function re ...

Report advocates improved police training

Aug 29, 2014

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

User comments