These findings indicate that transfer can occur if the criterion and transfer tasks engage specific overlapping processing components and brain regions.
The study was a joint project between scientists at Umeå University and Karolinska Institutet under a network (Nordic Centre of Excellence in Cognitive Control) financed by the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (NOS-HS).
The work is being done at the Umeå Centre for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI) and the authors of the paper are Erika Dahlin (Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Umeå University), Anna Stigsdotter Neely (Department of Psychology, Umeå University), Anne Larsson (Radiophysical Unit, Umeå University), Lars Bäckman (Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, KI) and Lars Nyberg (Department of Integrative Medical Biology and Department of Radiation Sciences, Umeå University).
Their performance on the trained task and one of the untrained tasks improved.
What these two tasks had in common was the activation of the striatum, a cluster of neuronal nuclei in midbrain.
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Why are we no better at remembering faces when we have been training our memory for words?
The study involved a group of older (over 65 years) and younger (20-30 years old) subjects, who were asked to participate in a training program to update information in working memory.
After five weeks, both groups showed clear improvement on the trained tasks.
The transfer effect was based on a joint training-related activity increase for the criterion (letter memory) and transfer tasks in a striatal region that also was recruited pretraining.
No transfer was observed to a task that did not engage updating and striatal regions, and age-related striatal changes imposed constraints on transfer.