A potential spatial working memory training task to improve both episodic memory and fluid intelligence.
One current challenge in cognitive training is to create a training regime that benefits multiple cognitive domains, including episodic memory, without relying on a large battery of tasks, which can be time-consuming and difficult to learn. By giving careful consideration to the neural correlates underlying episodic and working memory, we devised a computerized working memory training task in which neurologically healthy participants were required to monitor and detect repetitions in two streams of spatial information (spatial location and scene identity) presented simultaneously (i.e. a dual n-back paradigm). Participants' episodic memory abilities were assessed before and after training using two object and scene recognition memory tasks incorporating memory confidence judgments. Furthermore, to determine the generalizability of the effects of training, we also assessed fluid intelligence using a matrix reasoning task. By examining the difference between pre- and post-training performance (i.e. gain scores), we found that the trainers, compared to non-trainers, exhibited a significant improvement in fluid intelligence after 20 days. Interestingly, pre-training fluid intelligence performance, but not training task improvement, was a significant predictor of post-training fluid intelligence improvement, with lower pre-training fluid intelligence associated with greater post-training gain. Crucially, trainers who improved the most on the training task also showed an improvement in recognition memory as captured by d-prime scores and estimates of recollection and familiarity memory. Training task improvement was a significant predictor of gains in recognition and familiarity memory performance, with greater training improvement leading to more marked gains. In contrast, lower pre-training recollection memory scores, and not training task improvement, led to greater recollection memory performance after training. Our findings demonstrate that practice on a single working memory task can potentially improve aspects of both episodic memory and fluid intelligence, and that an extensive training regime with multiple tasks may not be necessary.