Prefrontal cortical changes following Cognitive training in patients with chronic schizophrenia: Effects of practice, generalization, and specificity

Kristen M. Haut, Kelvin O. Lim, Angus MacDonald

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117 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1850-1859
Number of pages10
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to all the participants for their conscientiousness and enthusiasm, and for the assistance of Melissa Johnson, Vina Goghari, Rachel Force, and Michelle Thompson from the TRiCAM Laboratory, and Linda Eckhardt from People’s Incorporated (St Paul, MN) and Peggy Mattingly from Fairview University of Minnesota, Department of Psychiatry (Minneapolis, MN). Research supported by Clinical Research Feasibility Funding (CReFF) award from the University of Minnesota General Clinical Research Center, and NIH NCRR Grant number P41-008079 and a MIND Institute Grant to the University of Minnesota Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. KH was supported NIMH Grant number T32 MH 17069 and by a Graduate Research Partner Program fellowship through the University of Minnesota.


  • clinical
  • imaging
  • plasticity
  • remediation
  • schizophrenia/antipsychotics
  • working memory


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