The benefits and mechanistic effects of working memory training in children are the subject of much research and debate. The cumulative evidence indicates that training can alter brain structure and function in the short term and have lasting effects on behaviour. We show that five weeks of working memory training led to greater activity in prefrontal and striatal brain regions, better accuracy, and reduced intra-individual variability in response times. The reduction in intra-individual variability can be explained by changes to the evidence accumulation rates and thresholds in a sequential sampling decision model. Critically, intra-individual variability was more closely associated with academic skills and mental health 6-12 months after the end of training than task accuracy. These results indicate that intra-individual variability may be a useful way to quantify the immediate impact of cognitive training interventions and predict the future emergence of academic and socioemotional skills.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience