Neural efficiency in working memory tasks: The impact of task demand and training

Daniela NussbaumerETH Zurich
Roland H. GrabnerGeorg-August-University of Göttingen
Elsbeth SternETH Zurich

Abstract

Studies of human intelligence provide strong evidence for the neural efficiency hypothesis: More efficient brain functioning in more intelligent individuals, that is, less cortical activation in brighter individuals. The main goal was to explore the relationship between intelligence and cortical activation in combination with a cognitive training. In 83 participants, cortical activation was assessed by means of event-related desynchronization (ERD) before and after working memory training. In a pre-test training post-test design, ERD during performance of trained and untrained transfer tasks was correlated with scores in a psychometric intelligence test. We found a negative correlation between ERD and intelligence for moderately difficult tasks. A decrease in cortical investment from pre- to post-test was found for simple tasks but likewise for individuals with lower and higher intelligence. These findings suggest partial confirmation of the neural efficiency hypothesis for moderately difficult tasks and they indicate that training can help become neurally efficient.

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