After practicing the n-back task for 5 hours a day and 5 days per week over 5 weeks, subjects were able to remember more items over short periods of time. Importantly, for those whose working memory improved, communication between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and parietal cortex also improved. "This is in comparison to the control group, who showed no such differences in neural communication after practicing Tetris for 5 weeks," Kundu says.
Working-memory training also produced improvement on cognitive tasks for which participants were not trained that are also believed to rely on communication between the parietal cortex and DLPFC. For two of these tasks the ability to detect a change in a briefly presented array of squares, and the ability to detect a red letter "C" embedded in a field of distracting stimuli of rotated red "C"s and blue "C"s those who had trained in the n-back test also showed a decrease in task-related EEG. The training exercise had registered a similar decrease. "The overall picture seems to be that the extent of transfer of training to untrained tasks depends on the overlap of neural circuits recruited by the two," Kundu says.
Developing future therapies
Moving forward, many cognitive neuroscientists are working to see how working-memory training may specifically help clinical populations, such as patients with ADHD. "If we can learn the 'rules' that govern how, why, and when cognitive training can produce improvements that generalize to untrained tasks, it may be that therapies can be developed for patients suffering from neurological or psychiatric disease," Postle
|Contact: Lisa M.P. Munoz|
Cognitive Neuroscience Society