Skeptical Pioneers

As Klingberg’s research began to appear in leading scientific journals, Cogmed’s success was turning heads in the U.S. It was Dr. Arthur Lavin, a pediatrician from Cleveland, Ohio, who introduced Chris Tonelli to working memory training in the summer of 2006. Just a couple years earlier, Lavin was unaware of the training method. He first came across it after reading an article discussing working memory training in Nature Neuroscience in December 2003, but his previous experiences caused him to remain skeptical.

“The American marketplace loves to hype,” said Lavin. “I’ve encountered all kinds of supplements, exercises and computer programs that claim to make you smarter. But in every instance, when I do my due diligence, I’ve found there is very thin evidence for most of these interventions.”

But he wasn’t prepared to discount the article. And after further investigation, he was dialing the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, where the research was conducted. “I needed to talk with them directly to ask them ‘does this really work?’” said Lavin.

Only a few months later, Dr. Barbara Ingersoll, a noted author and an expert on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, was stepping on a plane for Stockholm, Sweden. In her bag was the February 2005 edition of the JAACAP, which featured Klingberg’s second research study indicating that working memory could be improved through computerized training. Ingersoll was flying to Sweden to meet him.

“My husband was stunned because I am a reluctant traveler, at best. But, when I read the research, I knew that it was a breakthrough and I was excited to see what they were doing over there in Sweden, so I packed my bags.”

Ingersoll was one of several medical professionals from around the U.S. who saw the research published in the JAACAP and were eager to learn more about the feasibility of training the mind. In fact, what they were about to discover was that the research that appeared in the JAACAP was just one important part of an emerging body of evidence that Klingberg and his team were assembling – all of it indicating that it was possible to stretch the brain – or at least working memory.

Lavin and Ingersoll were two of the early pioneers of Cogmed in the United States. They were joined by other prominent psychologists and psychiatrists such Dr. Bill Benninger from Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Theresa Cerulli from Andover, Mass., Dr. Paul White from Wichita, Kan., and Dr. Jay Tarnow from Houston. Their clinical successes soon matched the results in Sweden and drew the attention of their colleagues across the U.S. Major clinics and hospitals began offering Cogmed and within two years more than 100 practices in the U.S. had qualified to provide the training and were finding that the results could be life transforming.

“When I read the research, I knew that it was a
breakthrough and I was excited to see what they were
doing over there in Sweden.”

– Dr. Barbara Ingersoll