By Joe Hardy, PhD
Cognitive training can enhance working memory and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, according to a study published recently in the journal Science. Researchers based out of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden compared cognitive performance and dopamine activation in training participants, who did 5 weeks of cognitive training, and control participants, who did not receive training. Compared to pre-training levels, training participants saw both improved performance on a test of working memory and increased levels of dopamine release. No such changes were seen in the control group.
This result shows that cognitive training with exercises similar to those on Lumosity can change the way the brain works at a fundamental chemical level. Indeed, we’ve known for several years that the right kind of cognitive training can enhance brain functions like working memory.
But what makes this study novel is the implication that dopamine plays a role in these important brain changes. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter — a chemical used for communication between brain cells — that is critical for many brain functions, and particularly for signalling reward. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter released when the brain signals, “good job, do that again!” The brain releases dopamine in response to all kinds of pleasurable experiences — such as eating a delicious meal — and is critical for learning.
It’s very exciting to see that cognitive training can enhance the functioning of this crucial neurochemical. Do some Lumosity training today and you may experience the effects for yourself.