Training Working Memory in Childhood Enhances Coupling between Frontoparietal Control Network and Task-Related Regions.
Barnes JJ., Nobre AC., Woolrich MW., Baker K., Astle DE.
UNLABELLED: Working memory is a capacity upon which many everyday tasks depend and which constrains a child's educational progress. We show that a child's working memory can be significantly enhanced by intensive computer-based training, relative to a placebo control intervention, in terms of both standardized assessments of working memory and performance on a working memory task performed in a magnetoencephalography scanner. Neurophysiologically, we identified significantly increased cross-frequency phase amplitude coupling in children who completed training. Following training, the coupling between the upper alpha rhythm (at 16 Hz), recorded in superior frontal and parietal cortex, became significantly coupled with high gamma activity (at ∼90 Hz) in inferior temporal cortex. This altered neural network activity associated with cognitive skill enhancement is consistent with a framework in which slower cortical rhythms enable the dynamic regulation of higher-frequency oscillatory activity related to task-related cognitive processes. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Whether we can enhance cognitive abilities through intensive training is one of the most controversial topics of cognitive psychology in recent years. This is particularly controversial in childhood, where aspects of cognition, such as working memory, are closely related to school success and are implicated in numerous developmental disorders. We provide the first neurophysiological account of how working memory training may enhance ability in childhood, using a brain recording technique called magnetoencephalography. We borrowed an analysis approach previously used with intracranial recordings in adults, or more typically in other animal models, called "phase amplitude coupling."