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Journal Article

Post-training load-related changes of auditory working memory: An EEG study


Rimmele,  Johanna Maria
Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf;
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Gudi-Mindermann, H., Rimmele, J. M., Bruns, P., Kloosterman, N. A., Donner, T. H., Engel, A. K., et al. (2020). Post-training load-related changes of auditory working memory: An EEG study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14: 72. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2020.00072.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-6C15-A
Working memory (WM) refers to the temporary retention and manipulation of information, and its capacity is highly susceptible to training. Yet, the neural mechanisms that allow for increased performance under demanding conditions are not fully understood. We expected that post-training efficiency in WM performance modulates neural processing during high load tasks. We tested this hypothesis, using electroencephalography (EEG) (N = 39), by comparing source space spectral power of healthy adults performing low and high load auditory WM tasks. Prior to the assessment, participants either underwent a modality-specific auditory WM training, or a modality-irrelevant tactile WM training, or were not trained (active control). After a modality-specific training participants showed higher behavioral performance, compared to the control. EEG data analysis revealed general effects of WM load, across all training groups, in the theta-, alpha-, and beta-frequency bands. With increased load theta-band power increased over frontal, and decreased over parietal areas. Centro-parietal alpha-band power and central beta-band power decreased with load. Interestingly, in the high load condition a tendency toward reduced beta-band power in the right medial temporal lobe was observed in the modality-specific WM training group compared to the modality-irrelevant and active control groups. Our finding that WM processing during the high load condition changed after modality-specific WM training, showing reduced beta-band activity in voice-selective regions, possibly indicates a more efficient maintenance of task-relevant stimuli. The general load effects suggest that WM performance at high load demands involves complementary mechanisms, combining a strengthening of task-relevant and a suppression of task-irrelevant processing.