Dorsolateral Prefrontal Functional Connectivity Predicts Working Memory Training Gains

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  • The German AgeGain Study Group

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Background: Normal aging is associated with working memory decline. A decrease in working memory performance is associated with age-related changes in functional activation patterns in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Cognitive training can improve cognitive performance in healthy older adults. We implemented a cognitive training study to assess determinants of generalization of training gains to untrained tasks, a key indicator for the effectiveness of cognitive training. We aimed to investigate the association of resting-state functional connectivity (FC) of DLPFC with working memory performance improvement and cognitive gains after the training.

Method: A sample of 60 healthy older adults (mean age: 68 years) underwent a 4-week neuropsychological training, entailing a working memory task. Baseline resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) images were acquired in order to investigate the FC of DLPFC. To evaluate training effects, participants underwent a neuropsychological assessment before and after the training. A second follow-up assessment was applied 12 weeks after the training. We used cognitive scores of digit span backward and visual block span backward tasks representing working memory function. The training group was divided into subjects who had and who did not have training gains, which was defined as a higher improvement in working memory tasks than the control group (N = 19).

Results: A high FC of DLPFC of the right hemisphere was significantly associated with training gains and performance improvement in the visuospatial task. The maintenance of cognitive gains was restricted to the time period directly after the training. The training group showed performance improvement in the digit span backward task.

Conclusion: Functional activation patterns of the DLPFC were associated with the degree of working memory training gains and visuospatial performance improvement. Although improvement through cognitive training and acquisition of training gains are possible in aging, they remain limited.
Original languageEnglish
Article number592261
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 Faraza, Waldenmaier, Dyrba, Wolf, Fischer, Knaepen, Kollmann, Tüscher, Binder, Mierau, Riedel, Fellgiebel and Teipel.

ID: 5893013

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