STUDY ALERT: Dopamine, Working Memory, and Training Induced Plasticity: Implications for Developmental Research
Stina Söderqvist, Sissela Bergman Nutley, Myriam Peyrard-Janvid, Hans Matsson, Keith Humphreys, Juha Kere, Torkel Klingberg
Cognitive deficits and particularly deficits in working memory (WM) capacity are common features in neuropsychiatric disorders. Understanding the underlying mechanisms through which WM capacity can be improved is therefore of great importance. Several lines of research indicate that dopamine plays an important role not only in WM function but also for improving WM capacity. For example, pharmacological interventions acting on the dopaminergic system, such as methylpheni- date, improve WM performance. In addition, behavioral interventions for improving WM perfor- mance in the form of intensive computerized training have recently been associated with changes in dopamine receptor density. These two different means of improving WM performance— pharmacological and behavioral—are thus associated with similar biological mechanisms in the brain involving dopaminergic systems. This article reviews some of the evidence for the role of dopamine in WM functioning, in particular concerning the link to WM development and cognitive plasticity. Novel data are presented showing that variation in the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1) influences improvements in WM and fluid intelligence in preschool-age children following cognitive training. Our results emphasize the importance of the role of dopamine in determining cognitive plasticity.