Article thumbnail

On the impacts of working memory training on executive functioning

By Tiina Salminen, Tilo Strobach and Torsten Schubert


Recent studies have reported improvements in a variety of cognitive functions following sole working memory (WM) training. In spite of the emergence of several successful training paradigms, the scope of transfer effects has remained mixed. This is most likely due to the heterogeneity of cognitive functions that have been measured and tasks that have been applied. In the present study, we approached this issue systematically by investigating transfer effects from WM training to different aspects of executive functioning. Our training task was a demanding WM task that requires simultaneous performance of a visual and an auditory n-back task, while the transfer tasks tapped WM updating, coordination of the performance of multiple simultaneous tasks (i.e., dual-tasks) and sequential tasks (i.e., task switching), and the temporal distribution of attentional processing. Additionally, we examined whether WM training improves reasoning abilities; a hypothesis that has so far gained mixed support. Following training, participants showed improvements in the trained task as well as in the transfer WM updating task. As for the other executive functions, trained participants improved in a task switching situation and in attentional processing. There was no transfer to the dual-task situation or to reasoning skills. These results, therefore, confirm previous findings that WM can be trained, and additionally, they show that the training effects can generalize to various other tasks tapping on executive functions

Topics: Neuroscience
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central

Suggested articles


  1. (2001). A controlled-attention view of working-memory capacity.
  2. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention.
  3. (2009). Adaptive training leads to sustained enhancement of poor working memory in children.
  4. (1990). Advanced Progressive Matrices: Sets,
  5. and Lang,A.-G.(2009).Statisticalpower analyses using G*Power 3.1,tests for correlation and regression analyses.
  6. Attention control, memory updating, and emotion regulation temporarily reduce the capacity for executive control.
  7. (2007). BrainTwister - Aufgabensammlung für kognitivesTraining,Version 1.0.1. Manual und CD.B e r n :I n s t i t u tf ü r Psychologie,
  8. (1995). C h u n ,M .M . ,a n dP o t t e r ,M .C .
  9. (2007). Changes in cortical activity after training of working memory – a single-subject analysis.
  10. (2000). Changing internal constraints on action: the role of backward inhibition.
  11. (2000). Component processes in task switching.
  12. (2005). Computerized training of working memory in children with ADHD – a randomized, controlled trial.
  13. (2007). Computerized working memory training after stroke – a pilot study.
  14. (2010). Control and interference in task switching – a review.
  15. (1995). Costs of a predictable switch between simple cognitive tasks.
  16. (2010). D u n n i n g ,D .L . ,H i l t o n
  17. (2010). Does working Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
  18. (2011). Does working memory training work? The promise and challenges of enhancing cognition by training working memory.
  19. (1994). Dual-task interference in simple tasks: data and theory.
  20. (2010). Expanding the mind’s Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
  21. (1996). Exploring the central executive.
  22. (2008). F a b i a n i ,M . ,a n dG r a t t o n ,G .
  23. (2012). Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
  24. (2007). G*Power 3, A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences.
  25. (2001). How are visuospatial working memory, executive functioning, and spatial abilities related? A latent-variable analysis.
  26. (2009). How useful is executive control training? Age differences in near and far transfer of task-switching training.
  27. (2009). Human variation in overriding attentional capture.
  28. (2010). Hundred days of cognitive training enhance broad cognitive abilities in adulthood: findings from the COGITO study.
  29. (2011). Improved intertask coordination after extensive dual-task practice.
  30. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory.
  31. (2004). Increased prefrontal and parietal activity after training of working memory.
  32. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading.
  33. (2003). Individual differences in working memory capacity predict visual attention allocation.
  34. (1991). Individual differences in working memory for comprehension and following directions.
  35. (2006). Is the focus of attention in working memory expanded through practice?
  36. (2007). K a n e ,M .J . ,B r o w n ,L .H . ,M c v a y
  37. (2004). K a n e ,M .J . ,H a m b r i c k ,D .Z . ,T u h o l s k i
  38. (1990). Memory updating in working memory: the role of the central executive.
  39. (1999). Mental models in conditional reasoning and working memory.
  40. (1998). Modulation of the attentional blink by on-line response selection: evidence from speeded and unspeeded Task1 decisions.
  41. (2003). Neural mechanisms of general fluid intelligence.
  42. (2003). Neural mechanisms of transient and sustained cognitive control during task switching.
  43. (2007). On how high performers keep cool brains in situations of cognitive overload.
  44. (2007). On the failureof distractor inhibitionin the attentional blink.
  45. (2012). On the impacts of working memory training on executive functioning.
  46. (2011). paper pending published: 04
  47. (2008). Plasticityofexecutivefunctioning in young and older adults: immediate training gains, transfer, and longterm maintenance.
  48. (1996). Processing speed, working memory, and fluid intelligence: evidence for a developmental cascade.
  49. (2011). R i c h m o n d ,L .L . ,M o r r i s o n
  50. (1990). Reasoning ability is (little more than) working-memory capacity?
  51. (2006). Resource sharing in the attentional blink.
  52. (1994). S h a p i r o ,K .L . ,R a y m o n d ,J .E . ,a n d
  53. (2007). S l a g t e r ,H .A . ,L u t z ,A . ,G r e i s c h a r ,L . L . ,F r a n c i s ,A .D . ,N i e u w e n h u i s ,S . , D a v i s ,J .M . ,a n dD a v i d s o n ,R .J .
  54. (2007). Separating cognitive capacity from knowledge: a new hypothesis.
  55. (1994). Shifting intentional set: exploring the dynamic control of tasks,” in Attentionand Performance XV: Conscious and Nonconscious Information Processing, eds C. U m i l t àa n dM .M o s c o v i t c h
  56. (2012). Task switching: effects of practice on switch and mixing costs.
  57. (2003). Task switching.
  58. (1999). The attentional blink across stimulus modalities: evidence for central processing limitations.
  59. (2008). The central attentional limitation and executive control.
  60. (1996). The fractionation of working memory.
  61. (2010). The relationship between n-back performance and matrix reasoning – implications for training and transfer.
  62. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex “frontal lobe” tasks: a latent variable analysis.
  63. (2008). Training and transfer effects in task switching.
  64. (2009). Training and transfer effects of executive functions in preschool children.
  65. (2002). Training of working memory in children with ADHD. J .C l i n .E x p .N e u r o p s y c h o l .
  66. (2008). Transfer of learning after updating training mediated by the striatum.
  67. (2012). Video game practice optimizes executive control skills in dual-task and task switching situations.
  68. (2003). Working memory: looking back and looking forward.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.