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Psychol Sci. 2008 Sep;19(9):881-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02172.x.

Gaining control: training executive function and far transfer of the ability to resolve interference.

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University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Functional brain-imaging data document overlapping sites of activation in prefrontal cortex across memory tasks, suggesting that these tasks may share common executive components. We leveraged this evidence to develop a training regimen and a set of transfer tasks to examine the trainability of a putative executive-control process: interference resolution. Eight days of training on high-interference versions of three different working memory tasks increased the efficiency with which proactive interference was resolved on those particular tasks. Moreover, an improved ability to resolve interference was also transferred to different working memory, semantic memory, and episodic memory tasks, a demonstration of far-transfer effects from process-specific training. Participants trained with noninterference versions of the tasks did not exhibit transfer. We infer that the transfer we demonstrated resulted from increased efficiency of the interference-resolution process. Therefore, this aspect of executive control is plastic and adaptive, and can be improved by training.

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