STUDY ALERT: Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory: a meta-analysis

August 8, 2014 in Study Alerts

Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory: a meta-analysis 

Jacky Au & Ellen Sheehan & Nancy Tsai & Greg J. Duncan & Martin Buschkuehl & Susanne M. Jaeggi 

Working memory (WM), the ability to store and manipulate information for short periods of time, is an impor- tant predictor of scholastic aptitude and a critical bottleneck underlying higher-order cognitive processes, including con- trolled attention and reasoning. Recent interventions targeting WM have suggested plasticity of the WM system by demon- strating improvements in both trained and untrained WM tasks. However, evidence on transfer of improved WM into more general cognitive domains such as fluid intelligence (Gf) has been more equivocal. Therefore, we conducted a meta- analysis focusing on one specific training program, n-back. We searched PubMed and Google Scholar for all n-back training studies with Gf outcome measures, a control group, and healthy participants between 18 and 50 years of age. In total, we included 20 studies in our analyses that met our criteria and found a small but significant positive effect of n- back training on improving Gf. Several factors that moderate this transfer are identified and discussed. We conclude that short-term cognitive training on the order of weeks can result in beneficial effects in important cognitive functions as mea- sured by laboratory tests.

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