Lars Bäckman

Title: Professor

Sector: Psychology

Research group: Erika Jonsson Laukka


KI Profile page:

Phone: +46 8 524 858 40


Close-up portrait of Lars Bäckman.
Photo: Ulf Sirborn

Effective 2002 Lars Bäckman holds a professorship at the Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet. Lars is af Jochnick professor in the cognitive neuroscience of aging since 2011. This post is based on a donation from the af Jochnick Foundation of 50 million Swedish kronor over 10 years.

He has previously held professorships at Gothenburg University (1993-1998) and Uppsala University (1998-2002). Lars is a cognitive psychologist by training and received his PhD from the University of Umeå in 1984.

He has supervised 22 graduate students who have completed their dissertation work and 18 post-doctoral fellows.

Since 1984 Lars has regularly received funding as a principal investigator from one or several of the major research councils in Sweden. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (chairperson in Class IX [Social Sciences] 2010-2015) and the European Academy of Sciences and received the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award in 2008. His scientific work has resulted in 375 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 7 edited volumes, and 67 book chapters.

Lars has served on numerous boards and committees including the Swedish Council for Social Research, the Swedish Sports Research Council, and the Swedish Research Council, where he chaired the priority committee for psychology between 2001-2006. He has been an editorial board member for several journals within general psychology, gerontology, and rehabilitation.

Research area

His primary research area is cognition in normal and pathological ageing, with a special focus on memory and the research activities range from large-scale epidemiological studies to experimental brain-imaging work. A major finding in the cognitive-epidemiological research is that people who will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia show deficits in episodic memory, speed, and executive functions several years, if not decades, before clinical diagnosis. Intervention studies demonstrate that training in memory and attention results in clear performance benefits and accompanying brain changes among older adults, although the size of improvement is typically reduced relative to younger adults.

In the fMRI work, a recurrent observation is that older adults underactivate task-relevant brain regions during episodic and working memory. PET studies demonstrate marked losses in dopamine functions from early to late adulthood. These losses have been linked to age-related cognitive deficits. In an ongoing longitudinal study (COBRA), we integrate PET and MRI to delineate the interplay among neuromodulation, structural brain integrity, functional activation patterns, and cognition in old age.

Projects (PI)

Selected publications

Papenberg, G., Jonasson, L., Karalija, N., Köhncke, Y., Andersson, M., Axelsson, J., Wåhlin, A., Riklund, K., Lindenberger, U., Lövdén, M., Nyberg, L., & Bäckman, L. (2019). Mapping the landscape of human dopamine D2/3 receptors with [11C] raclopride. Brain Structure and Function, 224, doi: 10.1007/s00429-019-01938-1.

Papenberg, G., Karalija, N., Salami, A., Rieckmann, A., Andersson, M., Axelsson, J., Lindenberger, U., Lövdén, M., Nyberg, L., & Bäckman, L. (in press).  Balance between transmitter availability and dopamine D2 receptors in prefrontal cortex influences memory functioning. Cerebral Cortex.

Salami, A., Garrett, D. D., Wåhlin, A., Rieckmann, G., Papenberg, G., Karalija, N., Jonasson, L., Andersson, M., Axelsson, J., Johansson, J., Riklund, K., Lövdén, M., Lindenberger, U., Bäckman, L., & Nyberg, L. (2019). Dopamine D2/D3 binding potential modulates neural signatures of working memory in a load-dependent fasion. Journal of Neuroscience, 39, 537-547.

Bäckman, L., Waris, O., Johansson, J., Andersson, M., Rinne, J. O., Alakurtti, K., Soveri, A., Laine, M., & Nyberg, L. (2017). Increased dopamine release after working-memory updating training: Neurochemical correlates of transfer. Scientific Reports, 7, doi: 100.1038/s41598-017-07577-y.

Nyberg, L., Karalija, N., Salami, A., Andersson, M., Wåhlin, A., Kaboodvand, N., Köhnke, Y., Axelsson, J., Rieckmann, A., Papenberg, G., Garrett, D. D., Riklund, K., Lövdén, M., Lindenberger, U., & Bäckman, L. (2016). Dopamine D2 availability is linked to hippocampal-caudate functional connectivity and episodic memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 113, 7918-7923.

Papenberg, G., Ferencz, B., Mangialasche, F., Mecocci, P., Cecchetti, R., Kalpouzos, G., Fratiglioni, L., & Bäckman, L. (2016). Physical activity and inflammation: Effects on grey-matter volume and cognitive decline in aging. Human Brain Mapping, 37, 3462-3473.

Rypma, B., Fischer, H., Rieckmann, A., Hubbard, N. A., Nyberg, L., & Bäckman, L. (2015). Dopamine D1 binding predicts fusiform BOLD activity during face-recognition performance. Journal of Neuroscience, 35, 14702-14707.

Papenberg, G., Lindenberger, U., & Bäckman, L. (2015). Aging-related magnification of genetic effects on cognitive and brain integrity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19, 506-514.

Bäckman, L., Nyberg, L., Soveri, A., Johansson, J., Andersson, M., Dahlin, E., Neely, A. S., Virta, J., Laine, M., & Rinne, J. O. (2011). Effects of working-memory training on striatal dopamine release. Science, 333, 718.

Dahlin, E., Stigsdotter-Neely, A., Larsson, A., Bäckman, L., & Nyberg, L. (2008). Transfer of learning after updating training mediated by the striatum. Science, 320, 1510-1512.