The Effects of Cognitive Training on Brain Network Activity and Connectivity in Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases: a Systematic Review

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Cognitive training (CT) is an increasingly popular, non-pharmacological intervention for improving cognitive functioning in neurodegenerative diseases and healthy aging. Although meta-analyses support the efficacy of CT in improving cognitive functioning, the neural mechanisms underlying the effects of CT are still unclear. We performed a systematic review of literature in the PubMed, Embase and PsycINFO databases on controlled CT trials (N > 20) in aging and neurodegenerative diseases with pre- and post-training functional MRI outcomes up to November 23rd 2018 (PROSPERO registration number CRD42019103662). Twenty articles were eligible for our systematic review. We distinguished between multi-domain and single-domain CT. CT induced both increases and decreases in task-related functional activation, possibly indicative of an inverted U-shaped curve association between regional brain activity and task performance. Functional connectivity within ‘cognitive’ brain networks was consistently reported to increase after CT while a minority of studies additionally reported increased segregation of frontoparietal and default mode brain networks. Although we acknowledge the large heterogeneity in type of CT, imaging methodology, in-scanner task paradigm and analysis methods between studies, we propose a working model of the effects of CT on brain activity and connectivity in the context of current knowledge on compensatory mechanisms that are associated with aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-286
Number of pages20
JournalNeuropsychology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

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