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Plasticity of executive functioning in young and older adults: immediative training gains, transfer, and long-term maintenance
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB).
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB). Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Radiation Sciences, Diagnostic Radiology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2008 (English)In: Psychology and Aging, ISSN 0882-7974, E-ISSN 1939-1498, Vol. 23, no 4, 720-730 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The authors investigated immediate training gains, transfer effects, and 18-month maintenance after 5 weeks of computer-based training in updating of information in working memory in young and older subjects. Trained young and older adults improved significantly more than controls on the criterion task (letter memory), and these gains were maintained 18 months later. Transfer effects were in general limited and restricted to the young participants, who showed transfer to an untrained task that required updating (3-back). The findings demonstrate substantial and durable plasticity of executive functioning across adulthood and old age, although there appear to be age-related constraints in the ability to generalize the acquired updating skill.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Psychological Association , 2008. Vol. 23, no 4, 720-730 p.
Keyword [en]
executive training, age-related differences, plasticity, maintenance, transfer
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Research subject
medicinsk beteendevetenskap; Psychology
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-18299DOI: 10.1037/a0014296OAI: diva2:158514
Available from: 2009-02-03 Created: 2009-02-03 Last updated: 2011-06-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Train your brain: updating, transfer, and neural changes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Train your brain: updating, transfer, and neural changes
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Träning av hjärnan : uppdatering, transfer effekter, och neurala förändringar
Abstract [en]

An initial aim of this thesis was to determine whether training of a specific executive function (updating) produces improvements in performance on trained and transfer tasks, and whether the effects are maintained over time. Neural systems underlying training and transfer effects were also investigated and one question considered is whether transfer depends on general or specific neural overlap between training and transfer tasks. An additional aim was to identify how individual differences in executive functioning are mapped to functional brain changes. In Study I, significant training-related changes in performance on the letter memory criterion task were found in both young and older adults after 5 weeks of updating training. Transfer to a 3-back test of updating was also demonstrated in the young adults. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) revealed overlapping activity in letter memory and 3-back tasks in fronto-parietal areas and striatum pre-training, and a joint training-related activity increase for the tasks in a striatal region. No transfer was observed to a task (Stroop) that engaged fronto-parietal areas, but not the striatal region and updating per se. Moreover, age-related striatal changes imposed constraints on transfer. In Study II, additional transfer tasks and a test of long-term maintenance were included. Results revealed that training-related gains in performance were maintained 18 months post-training in both young and older adults, whereas transfer effects were limited to tasks requiring updating and restricted to young participants. In Study III, analyses of brain activity and performance during n-back (1/2/3-back) were executed. This task enables manipulation of executive demand, which permits examination of how individual differences in executive functioning can be mapped to functional brain changes. Relative to a young high-

performing group, capacity constraints in executive functioning were apparent between 1–2-back for the elderly participants and between 2–3-back for a young low-performing group. Capacity constraints in neural activity followed this pattern by showing a monotonically increasing response in the parietal cortex and the thalamus for young high performers, whereas activity levelled off at 1-back for elderly performers and at 2-back for young low performers. The response in the dorsal frontal cortex followed a similar pattern. Together, these findings indicate that fronto-parietal as well as sub-cortical areas are important for individual differences in executive functioning, training of updating and transfer effects.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Section for Physiology, Umeå university, 2009. 58 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1283
cognitive training, executive functioning, transfer, fMRI, brain system, young adults, elderly, practice, neural correlates, individual differences
National Category
Physiology Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-26606 (URN)978-91-7264-834-0 (ISBN)
Fysiologi, 901 87, Umeå
Public defence
2009-11-13, Biologihuset, BiA201, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-10-27 Created: 2009-10-16 Last updated: 2011-06-07Bibliographically approved

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Dahlin, ErikaNyberg, LarsStigsdotter Neely, Anna
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