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Title: How does working memory training work? : transfer, strategies, and neural correlates in children aged 9-14 years
Author: Jones, Jonathan
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2018
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Working memory predicts children’s academic achievement at school and future prospects. Working memory training may offer generalised improvements; however, evidence has been mixed and is a source of controversial debate. Training has been shown to improve performance on working memory tasks, but it is unclear if this reflects increased capacity or a change in strategy. Training has been found to improve children’s attention, maths, and reading, but rarely in studies with appropriate control groups. Very few controlled studies have investigated the neural correlates of working memory training in children, obscuring inferences about neural mechanisms. Chapter 2 presents the most comprehensive investigation of the neural correlates of working memory training to date. Training is found to improve children’s working memory performance, increase recruitment of the middle frontal gyrus, and increase connectivity within the posterior parietal cortex, but not change grey matter volume. It is concluded that repeated coactivation of fronto-parietal regions during training may increase executive or attentional control. However, strategy change may influence task-related brain activation. Chapter 3 presents a randomised controlled trial of ‘MetaCogmed’, a novel working memory and metacognitive strategy training programme designed to facilitate transfer to academic outcomes. Working memory training alone is found to improve children’s performance on tasks of working memory and mathematical reasoning. However, only the improvements in working memory were maintained three months later. MetaCogmed did not improve academic outcomes more than working memory training alone. It is concluded that working memory training may improve children’s maths ability in the short-term when offered in addition to school, and that metacognitive training may require more time and activities to promote generalisation. Chapter 4 presents a novel neuroimaging investigation of memory strategies in children. Grouping is found to be associated with decreased recruitment of the left middle frontal gyrus and increased recruitment of the left premotor cortex. It is suggested that grouping may afford an organisational advantage and more efficient use of working memory capacity compared to sequential rehearsal.
Supervisor: Adlam, Anna ; Milton, Fraser Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available