Neurocognitive plasticity across the lifespan: How effective are cognitive training interventions?

Prof. Julia Karbach
Cognition & Development Lab, Goethe Uni Frankfurt

Termin: 25.05.2016 Zeit: 17 Uhr (s.t.) Ort: Campus Westend, PEG Raum 1.G131

Throughout the entire lifespan, individuals are required to adapt to the demands of changing contexts and dynamic social environments. The potential modifiability of a person’s cognitive and neural system resulting from these adaptations has been referred to as cognitive and neural plasticity. One way to understand plasticity is to measure the effects of training interventions. Over the last decade, the interest in cognitive training has increased rapidly - especially after the publication of studies showing that cognitive training does not only result in performance improvements on the training task but also transfers to untrained tasks measuring related cognitive abilities. As intriguing as these findings are, they have inspired an intense scientific debate: While some researchers showed that cognitive training, particularly in the domains of working memory and executive functions, transferred to a broad range of abilities, others found no transfer. In response to this discussion, the field is moving on from simply asking whether cognitive training is effective in eliciting transfer or not. Instead, the focus is shifting to more appropriate questions such as understanding the origin of the large individual differences in training-related gains, age-related differences in these gains, and the variables moderating them. Often the goal of these studies is to investigate for whom the training works in order to design adaptive, tailored trainings. I will review current research, present selected recent findings from my own lab, and discuss important issues for future research aimed at improving cognitive performance in educational and clinical settings.