Like attention deficits, working memory training does not only impact children. In fact, adults with attention problems began to use the Cogmed training very early on and saw benefits on par with those observed in children. But researchers and clinicians have not stopped there. Many are exploring the use of the training for others who could benefit from improved working memory.
Dr. Helena Westerberg, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute’s Aging Research Center (and former member of Klingberg’s team), was the first to study the effects of working memory training on an adult population when she conducted research on stroke victims in 2003 using the Cogmed program. The results were consistent with previous studies and the subjects, who suffered from impaired working memory following stroke, took significant steps to improve their daily lives.
More recently, Westerberg conducted a broader study of more than 100 adults with normal working memory capacities. Surprisingly, they also saw significant improvements to working memory after using Cogmed. In particular, those users between the ages of 60 and 70 “returned” to the pre-training levels of the 20 – 30 year olds.
This study, and others that are being conducted currently, suggest a broader reality about working memory and performance. “We’re finding that there is a potential for most people to improve their working memory capacity through training,” said Westerberg. “For normally functioning persons the effects will probably be most apparent when they are involved in cognitively demanding activities such as strenuous academic studies or intellectually demanding professional work.”