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Neuropsychol Rev. 2018 Jun;28(2):232-250. doi: 10.1007/s11065-018-9374-8. Epub 2018 May 3.

Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Computerized Cognitive Training on Executive Functions: a Cross-Disciplinary Taxonomy for Classifying Outcome Cognitive Factors.

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School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia.
Academic Unit for Psychiatry of Old Age, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, 3052, Australia.
Department of Neurology, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia.


The growing prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders associated with aging and cognitive decline has generated increasing cross-disciplinary interest in non-pharmacological interventions, such as computerized cognitive training (CCT), which may prevent or slow cognitive decline. However, inconsistent findings across meta-analytic reviews in the field suggest a lack of cross-disciplinary consensus and on-going debate regarding the benefits of CCT. We posit that a contributing factor is the lack of a theoretically-based taxonomy of constructs and representative tasks typically used. An integration of the Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) taxonomy of broad and narrow cognitive factors and the Miyake unity-diversity theory of executive functions (EF) is proposed (CHC-M) as an attempt to clarify this issue through representing and integrating the disciplines contributing to CCT research. The present study assessed the utility of this taxonomy by reanalyzing the Lampit et al. (2014) meta-analysis of CCT in healthy older adults using the CHC-M framework. Results suggest that: 1) substantively different statistical effects are observed when CHC-M is applied to the Lampit et al. meta-analytic review, leading to importantly different interpretations of the data; 2) typically-used classification practices conflate Executive Function (EF) tasks with fluid reasoning (Gf) and retrieval fluency (Gr), and Attention with sensory perception; and 3) there is theoretical and practical advantage in differentiating attention and working-memory tasks into the narrow shifting, inhibition, and updating EF domains. Implications for clinical practice, particularly for our understanding of EF are discussed.


CHC theory; Cognitive intervention; Cognitive training; Executive functions; Neuropsychological assessment; Unity-diversity of EF

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