Nov 02

Cognitive Neuroscience Society 2012 (Chicago, IL)

Working memory training gains and transfer to other cognitive functions

Gigler, K.L. & Reber, P.J.

Recent research demonstrating improvements in working memory (WM) capacity has challenged the idea that WM capacity is an immutable cognitive trait. Indeed, relatively modest training protocols have been shown to lead to significant improvement. Because WM is a core cognitive process, increasing capacity has the potential to enhance performance on a wide range of cognitive functions. A critical question is the degree to which gains exhibited on the WM training task transfer to other cognitive processes. To test for transfer, the CogState cognitive assessment battery was completed by participants both before and after 10 hours of WM training with a novel training protocol. The CogState assessment battery includes a collection of tests that measure long-term memory function, executive function, attention and processing speed. During training, participants completed 2000 training trials of a visuospatial working memory task. Each trial consists of two phases: the presentation phase, during which participants see a sequence of moving visual cues and must hold that sequence in WM, and the response phase, during which participants attempt to replicate the sequence. The training is adaptive, adjusting the length of presented sequences based on performance in order to keep training near each individual’s WM span. Participants showed reliable improvement in WM span on both the trained task and a separate, non-trained assessment of visuospatial WM. Significant improvements were also observed on CogState measures of non-verbal long-term memory, attention, and processing speed, indicating that WM training can produce considerable gains in cognitive functioning beyond merely domain-specific WM improvement.

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