The Learning Brain: Memory and Brain Development in Children

By Torkel Klingberg; Neil Betteridge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Cognitive Training, Memory
Techniques, and Music

The studies of the Romanian children’s homes show just how detrimental an impoverished environment can be to development. But is there anything that could have a positive effect, over and above the ingredients of a relatively normal upbringing, such as social contacts, caring parents, toys, books, and a decent school? More specifically: Can cognitive functions be enhanced?

To evaluate the effects of “brain training,” in 2009 the BBC embarked on a study of 14,000 participants.1 The subjects were divided into three groups: two would perform tasks that could vaguely be labeled “brain training” with diverse kinds of memory and reasoning exercises, while the control group would do a form of quiz. The participants were asked to do the various tests online twice a week for six weeks. This was to be the largest training study ever conducted; but the fact that it ever even got off the ground is in itself remarkable. Hadn’t research come any further than this by 2009? Don’t we know whether cognitive functions can be trained?

Despite the volumes of evidence we have on how the brain is shaped by experience and training, the question of memory training, powers of concentration, and reasoning is still frustratingly contradictory. To sort out the concepts, we should first distinguish between the training of specific strategies and techniques,

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