The Effects of Working Memory Training on Brain Activity

Edward Nęcka , Aleksandra Gruszka , Adam Hampshire , Justyna Sarzyńska-Wawer , Andreea-Elena Anicai , Jarosław Orzechowski , Michał Nowak , Natalia Wójcik , Stefano Sandrone , Eyal Soreq


This study aimed to investigate if two weeks of working memory (WM) training on a progressive N-back task can generate changes in the activity of the underlying WM neural network. Forty-six healthy volunteers (23 training and 23 controls) were asked to perform the N-back task during three fMRI scanning sessions: (1) before training, (2) after the half of training sessions, and (3) at the end. Between the scanning sessions, the experimental group underwent a 10-session training of working memory with the use of an adaptive version of the N-back task, while the control group did not train anything. The N-back task in the scanning sessions was relatively easy (n = 2) in order to ensure high accuracy and a lack of between-group differences at the behavioral level. Such training-induced differences in neural efficiency were expected. Behavioral analyses revealed improved performance of both groups on the N-back task. However, these improvements resulted from the test-retest effect, not the training outside scanner. Performance on the non-trained stop-signal task did not demonstrate any transfer effect. Imaging analysis showed changes in activation in several significant clusters, with overlapping regions of interest in the frontal and parietal lobes. However, patterns of between-session changes of activation did not show any effect of training. The only finding that can be linked with training consists in strengthening the correlation between task performance accuracy and activation of the parietal regions of the neural network subserving working memory (left superior parietal lobule and right supramarginal gyrus posterior). These results suggest that the effects of WM training consist in learning that, in order to ensure high accuracy in the criterion task, activation of the parietal regions implicated in working memory updating must rise.
Author Edward Nęcka
Edward Nęcka,,
, Aleksandra Gruszka
Aleksandra Gruszka,,
, Adam Hampshire
Adam Hampshire,,
, Justyna Sarzyńska-Wawer
Justyna Sarzyńska-Wawer,,
, Andreea-Elena Anicai
Andreea-Elena Anicai,,
, Jarosław Orzechowski (Filia we Wrocławiu / Wydział Psychologii we Wrocławiu)
Jarosław Orzechowski,,
- Wydział Psychologii we Wrocławiu
, Michał Nowak
Michał Nowak,,
, Natalia Wójcik
Natalia Wójcik,,
, Stefano Sandrone
Stefano Sandrone,,
, Eyal Soreq
Eyal Soreq,,
Journal seriesBrain Sciences, ISSN 2076-3425, e-ISSN 2076-3425, (N/A 100 pkt)
Issue year2021
Publication size in sheets1
Article number155
Keywords in Englishworking memory; training; neural efficiency; N-back task; stop-signal task
ASJC Classification2800 General Neuroscience
Languageen angielski
The Effects_tekst.pdf 2.27 MB
Additional file
The Effects_oswiadczenie_Orzechowski.pdf 1.24 MB
Score (nominal)100
Score sourcejournalList
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2018 = 0.928
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