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Training the brain to improve on new tasks
Date:4/15/2013

day not only get better at the n-back task itself, but also experience "transfer" to other cognitive tasks on which they did not train. "The effects generalize to important domains such as attentional control, reasoning, reading, or mathematical skills," Jaeggi says. "Many of these improvements remain over the course of several months, suggesting that the benefits of the training are long lasting."

As yet unresolved and controversial, however, has been understanding which factors determine whether working-memory training will generalize to other domains, as well as how the brain changes in response to the training. Work by Postle's group using a new technique of applying electromagnetic stimulation on the brains of people undergoing working-memory training addresses some of these questions.

Training increases connectivity

Bornali Kundu of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who works in Postle's laboratory, used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with electroencephalography (EEG) to measure activity in specific brain circuits before and after training with an n-back task. "Our main finding was that training on the n-back task increased the number of items an individual could remember over a short period of time," explains Kundu, who is presenting these new results today. "This increase in short-term memory performance was associated with enhanced communication between distant brain areas, in particular between the parietal and frontal brain areas."

In the n-back task, Kundu's team presented stimuli one-at-a-time on a computer screen and asked participants to decide if the current stimulus matched both the color and location of the stimulus presented a certain number of presentations previously. The color varied among seven primary colors, and the location varied among eight possible positions arranged in a square formation. The control task was playing the video game Tetris, which involves moving colored shapes to di
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Contact: Lisa M.P. Munoz
cns.publicaffairs@gmail.com
703-951-7331
Cognitive Neuroscience Society
Source:Eurekalert

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