On the impacts of working memory training on executive functioning
Recent studies have reported improvements in a variety of cognitive functions following sole working memory (WM) training. In spite of the emergence of several successful training paradigms, the scope of transfer effects has remained mixed. This is most likely due to the heterogeneity of cognitive functions that have been measured and tasks that have been applied. In the present study, we approached this issue systematically by investigating transfer effects from WM training to different aspects of executive functioning. Our training task was a demanding WM task that requires simultaneous performance of a visual and an auditory n-back task, while the transfer tasks tapped WM updating, coordination of the performance of multiple simultaneous tasks (i.e., dual-tasks) and sequential tasks (i.e., task switching), and the temporal distribution of attentional processing. Additionally, we examined whether WM training improves reasoning abilities; a hypothesis that has so far gained mixed support. Following training, participants showed improvements in the trained task as well as in the transfer WM updating task. As for the other executive functions, trained participants improved in a task switching situation and in attentional processing. There was no transfer to the dual-task situation or to reasoning skills. These results, therefore, confirm previous findings that WM can be trained, and additionally, they show that the training effects can generalize to various other tasks tapping on executive functions.