Investigating Training and Transfer in Complex Tasks with Dual N-Back
No clear consensus exists in the scientific community of what constitutes efficient dual-tasking abilities. Moreover, the training of executive components has been given increased attention in the literature in recent years. Investigating transferability of cognitive training in a complex task setting, thirty subjects practiced for five days on a Name-Tag task (controls) or a Dual N-Back task (experimental), subsequently being tested on two transfer tasks; the Automated Operation Span and a dual task (Trail Making task + Mathematical Addition task). Dual N-Back training previously transferred to unrelated intelligence tests and in this study is assumed to rely primarily on executive attention. Executive attention, functioning to resolve interference and maintaining task-relevant information in working memory, has previously been linked to fluid intelligence and to dual-tasking. However, no transfer effects were revealed. The length of training may have been too short to reveal any such effects. However, the three complex tasks correlated significantly, suggesting common resources, and therefore having potentials as transfer tasks. Notably, subjects with the highest task-specific improvements performed worse on the transfer tasks than subjects improving less, suggesting that task-specific gains do not directly correlate with any transfer effect. At present, if transfer exists in these settings, data implies that five days of training is insufficient for a transfer to occur. Important questions for future research relates to the necessary conditions for transfer to occur, such as the amount of training, neural correlates, attention, and motivation.
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