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J Neurosci. 2013 May 15;33(20):8705-15. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5565-12.2013.

Strengthened effective connectivity underlies transfer of working memory training to tests of short-term memory and attention.

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Neuroscience Training Program and Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 57306, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Neurosci. 2013 Jun 19;33(25):10582.


Although long considered a natively endowed and fixed trait, working memory (WM) ability has recently been shown to improve with intensive training. What remains controversial and poorly understood, however, are the neural bases of these training effects and the extent to which WM training gains transfer to other cognitive tasks. Here we present evidence from human electrophysiology (EEG) and simultaneous transcranial magnetic stimulation and EEG that the transfer of WM training to other cognitive tasks is supported by changes in task-related effective connectivity in frontoparietal and parieto-occipital networks that are engaged by both the trained and transfer tasks. One consequence of this effect is greater efficiency of stimulus processing, as evidenced by changes in EEG indices of individual differences in short-term memory capacity and in visual search performance. Transfer to search-related activity provides evidence that something more fundamental than task-specific strategy or stimulus-specific representations has been learned. Furthermore, these patterns of training and transfer highlight the role of common neural systems in determining individual differences in aspects of visuospatial cognition.

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