What is it about?

The dramatic rise in prevalence rates of dementia have urged cognitive researchers to develop interventions which might attenuate or reduce the effects of age-related cognitive decline. This paper provides a meta-analytic review regarding the efficacy of training executive functions, including working memory training, inhibition training, cognitive flexibility (task-switching) training, and multidomain training. Both immediate and long-term effects of cognitive training are examined. We find that some types of training appear to be more effective than others in promoting generalizable improvements to untrained cognitive domains and functions (i.e., near-transfer and far-transfer). Overall, training executive functions has the potential to promote immediate and long-term improvements in cognition in later life.

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Why is it important?

Our findings demonstrate that after training, improvements on trained tasks were large, and improvements on untrained (near- and far-transfer) tasks were small but significant. These findings were similar for both immediate and long-term analyses, indicating that the effects of cognitive training have the potential to be maintained over time. We also find that training improved performance in executive functioning, fluid intelligence (reasoning), memory, and visuospatial ability, but not attention or processing speed. Additional analyses revealed that training which incorporated adaptive difficulty and exercised multiple cognitive domains (multidomain) consistently produced significant training effects. Future avenues of research and recommendations and also discussed.


There are many critics who assert that cognitive training is not effective. However, this field of study is still in its infancy, and much more research is required to discover the full potential that cognitive training can offer. We believe that, if there is any possibility for maintaining and improving cognition in later life, then this research is worth pursuing.

Lan Nguyen

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This page is a summary of: Immediate and long-term efficacy of executive functions cognitive training in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis., Psychological Bulletin, April 2019, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/bul0000196.
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