Cognitive training is increasingly used in the treatment of schizophrenia, but it remains unknown how this training affects functional neuroanatomy. Practice on specific cognitive tasks generally leads to automaticity and decreased prefrontal cortical activity, yet broad-based cognitive training programs may avoid automaticity and increase prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity. This study used quasi-randomized, placebo-control design and pre/post neuroimaging to examine functional plasticity associated with attention and working memory-focused cognitive training in patients with schizophrenia. Twenty-one participants with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder split into two demographically and performance matched groups (nine scanned per group) and nine control participants were tested 6-8 weeks apart. Compared with both patient controls and healthy controls, patients receiving cognitive training increased activation significantly more in attention and working memory networks, including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate and frontopolar cortex. The extent to which activity increased in a subset of these regions predicted performance improvements. Although this study was not designed to speak to the efficacy of cognitive training as a treatment, it is the first study to show that such training can increase the ability of patients to activate the PFC regions subserving attention and working memory.
- working memory