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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01103

Are working memory training effects paradigm-specific?

  • 1Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 2MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 3Imperial College London, United Kingdom

A randomized controlled trial compared complex span and n-back training regimes to investigate the generality of training benefits across materials and paradigms. The memory items and training intensities were equated across programs, providing the first like-with-like comparison of transfer in these two widely-used training paradigms. The stimuli in transfer tests of verbal and visuo-spatial n-back and complex span differed from the trained tasks, but were matched across the untrained paradigms. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three training groups: complex span training, n-back training or no training. Pre- to- post training changes were observed for untrained n-back tasks following n-back training. Following complex span training there was equivocal evidence for improvements on a verbal complex span task, but no evidence for changes on an untrained visuo-spatial complex span activity. Relative to a no intervention group, the evidence supported no change on an untrained verbal complex span task following either n-back or complex span training. Equivocal evidence was found for improvements on visuo-spatial complex span and verbal and visuo-spatial n-back tasks following both training regimes. Evidence for selective transfer (comparing the two active training groups) was only found for an untrained visuo-spatial n-back task following n-back training. There was no evidence for cross-paradigm transfer. Thus transfer is constrained by working memory paradigm and the nature of individual processes executed within complex span tasks. However, within-paradigm transfer can occur when the change is limited to stimulus category, at least for n-back.

Keywords: working memory, training, intervention, transfer, Memory

Received: 13 Nov 2018; Accepted: 26 Apr 2019.

Edited by:

Motonori Yamaguchi, Edge Hill University, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Alexandre Schaefer, Department of Psychology, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia, Malaysia
Sophie Portrat, Université Grenoble Alpes, France  

Copyright: © 2019 Holmes, Woolgar, Hampshire and Gathercole. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Joni Holmes, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, CB2 7EF, United Kingdom,