Neural correlates of training-related working-memory gains in old age

Institution: Karolinska Institute

Title: Neural correlates of training-related working-memory gains in old age

Researcher(s): Brehmer Y, Rieckmann A, Bellander M, Westerberg H, Fischer H, Bäckman L

Program: Cogmed QM

Published: NeuroImage, July 2011

Brehmer and colleagues investigated the relationship between behavioral performance and neural activity in 23 healthy, older adults (60-70 years) following five weeks of Cogmed training. Participants were randomly assigned to either adaptive Cogmed training or a non-adaptive placebo version of Cogmed. Using fMRI, all participants were measured before and after training doing a low difficulty working memory task and a high difficultly working memory task. Both groups evidenced decreased brain activity on the low and high difficultly working memory tasks. Compared to the placebo group, the adaptive training group had significantly larger decreases in memory and attention-related brains regions (frontal, occipital and temporal areas) as well as, subcortical increases when performing the high difficulty working memory task after training. The benefits of training thus unfolded in the context of more difficult working memory challenges as larger decreases in activation imply that the adaptive group needed to invest less neural energy. The adaptive group also improved over the control in measures of working memory, attention and episodic memory.