Working Memory Training Promotes General Cognitive Abilities in Genetically Heterogeneous Mice

Kenneth R. Light, Stefan Kolata, Christopher Wass, Alexander Denman-Brice, Ryan Zagalsky, Louis D. Matzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


In both humans and mice, the efficacy of working memory capacity and its related process, selective attention, are each strongly predictive of individuals' aggregate performance in cognitive test batteries [1-9]. Because working memory is taxed during most cognitive tasks, the efficacy of working memory may have a causal influence on individuals' performance on tests of "intelligence" [10, 11]. Despite the attention this has received, supporting evidence has been largely correlational in nature (but see [12]). Here, genetically heterogeneous mice were assessed on a battery of five learning tasks. Animals' aggregate performance across the tasks was used to estimate their general cognitive abilities, a trait that is in some respects analogous to intelligence [13, 14]. Working memory training promoted an increase in animals' selective attention and their aggregate performance on these tasks. This enhancement of general cognitive performance by working memory training was attenuated if its selective attention demands were reduced. These results provide evidence that the efficacy of working memory capacity and selective attention may be causally related to an animal's general cognitive performance and provide a framework for behavioral strategies to promote those abilities. Furthermore, the pattern of behavior reported here reflects a conservation of the processes that regulate general cognitive performance in humans and infrahuman animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)777-782
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 27 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)




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