Samantha J BrooksLiverpool John Moores University, UK
Title: Neural processes of working memory training: controlling the impulse to throw the baby out with the bathwater
Critics argue that working memory training (WMT) is unable to achieve "far-transfer"- the attainment of benefits to cognition from one taught context to another dissimilar context-associated with improved quality of life. However, brain changes after a course of WMT in frontoparietal and striatal circuits - that often occur prior to behavioral changes - may be a better indicator of far-transfer efficacy, especially to improve impulse control commonly dysregulated in those with addictive disorders, yet not commonly examined in WMT studies. In this review, 35 brain imaging studies utilized fMRI, structural imaging (MRI, DTI), functional connectivity, EEG, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), cerebral perfusion, and neurogenetic analyses with tasks based on visuospatial and auditory working memory, dual and standard n-back. Evidence suggests that repeated WMT reduces brain activation in frontoparietal and striatal networks reflective of increased neural circuitry efficiency via myelination and functional connectivity changes. Neural effects of WMT may persist months after training has ended, lead to non-trained task transfer, be strengthened by auxiliary methods such as tDCS and be related to COMT polymorphisms. WMT can be utilized as an effective, non-invasive intervention for working memory deficits to treat impulse and affective control problems in people with addictive disorders.
Samantha Brooks is a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society, and is currently Associate Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at the School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Liverpool John Moores University, UK. Previously, Dr. Brooks worked as a lecturer for six years in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Dr Brooks' research specialises in the neural mechanisms of impulse and appetite control in various psychiatric conditions (e.g. addiction, eating disorders). Previously, she completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Uppsala University, Sweden, where she continues to collaborate on projects examining the brain processes underlying eating disorders. She gained her Ph.D. at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, where she learned clinical neuroimaging techniques, such as structural and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Dr Brooks has an H Index of 42, has published over 100 papers, including 6 book chapters in high impact journals/books, and continues to present at international conferences. Her work on impulse control in eating disorders and addiction has so far attracted over 1 million Euros in international funding, and collaborations with experts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, South Africa and United States.