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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018 Oct;93:108-122. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.03.019. Epub 2018 Mar 21.

Working memory training mostly engages general-purpose large-scale networks for learning.

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Department of Psychology, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland; Department of Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; Department of Psychology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland. Electronic address:
Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden; Umeå Center for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI), Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden; Department of Radiation Sciences, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.
Department of Psychology, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland; Turku Brain and Mind Center, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.


The present meta-analytic study examined brain activation changes following working memory (WM) training, a form of cognitive training that has attracted considerable interest. Comparisons with perceptual-motor (PM) learning revealed that WM training engages domain-general large-scale networks for learning encompassing the dorsal attention and salience networks, sensory areas, and striatum. Also the dynamics of the training-induced brain activation changes within these networks showed a high overlap between WM and PM training. The distinguishing feature for WM training was the consistent modulation of the dorso- and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC/VLPFC) activity. The strongest candidate for mediating transfer to similar untrained WM tasks was the frontostriatal system, showing higher striatal and VLPFC activations, and lower DLPFC activations after training. Modulation of transfer-related areas occurred mostly with longer training periods. Overall, our findings place WM training effects into a general perception-action cycle, where some modulations may depend on the specific cognitive demands of a training task.


Brain imaging; Cognitive training; Executive function; Plasticity; Working memory; fMRI

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