Strengthening of alpha synchronization is a neural correlate of cognitive transfer

Julia Ericson, Satu Palva, Matias Palva, Torkel Klingberg

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Cognitive training can lead to improvements in both task-specific strategies and general capacities, such as visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM). The latter emerge slowly and linearly throughout training, in contrast to strategy where changes typically occur within the first days of training. Changes in strategy and capacity have not been separated in prior neuroimaging studies. Here, we used a within-participants design with dense temporal sampling to capture the time dynamics of neural mechanisms associated with change in capacity. In four participants, neural activity was recorded with magnetoencephalography on seven occasions over two months of visuo-spatial working memory training. During scanning, the participants performed a trained visuo-spatial working memory task, a transfer task, and a control task. First, we extracted an individual visuo-spatial working memory-load-dependent synchronization network for each participant. Next, we identified linear changes over time in the network, congruent with the temporal dynamics of capacity change. Three out of four participants showed a gradual strengthening of alpha synchronization. Strengthening of the same connections was also found in the transfer task but not in the control task. This suggests that cognitive transfer occurs through slow, gradual strengthening of alpha synchronization between cortical regions that are vital for both the trained task and the transfer task.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbhad527
Number of pages11
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number2
Early online date13 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • MEG
  • Cortical oscillations
  • Cortical plasticity
  • Working memory


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