Working memory training mostly engages general-purpose large-scale networks for learning

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HighlightsWe performed the first meta-analysis of fMRI studies on working memory (WM) training.We demonstrated that WM training modulates only the canonical WM network.This general-purpose brain network was also modulated by perceptual-motor learning.Only DLPFC/VLPFC was highlighted in WM training studies.The present meta-analytic study examined brain activation changes following working memory (WM) training, a form of cognitive training that has attracted considerable interest. Comparisons with perceptual-motor (PM) learning revealed that WM training engages domain-general large-scale networks for learning encompassing the dorsal attention and salience networks, sensory areas, and striatum. Also the dynamics of the training-induced brain activation changes within these networks showed a high overlap between WM and PM training. The distinguishing feature for WM training was the consistent modulation of the dorso- and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC/VLPFC) activity. The strongest candidate for mediating transfer to similar untrained WM tasks was the frontostriatal system, showing higher striatal and VLPFC activations, and lower DLPFC activations after training. Modulation of transfer-related areas occurred mostly with longer training periods. Overall, our findings place WM training effects into a general perception-action cycle, where some modulations may depend on the specific cognitive demands of a training task.

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