Training of executive functions: A dichotic listening (DL) study

Research Area: Research Year: 2010
Type of Publication: Article
Authors: Hämäläinen, Heike; Soveri, Anna; Tallus, Jussi; Laine, Matti; Tuomainen, Jyrki; Nyberg, Lars; Bäckman, Lars; Hugdahl, Kenneth
Effective training of cognitive functions, especially executive functions, is one of the key issues in cognitive neuroscience today. Here we compare training of different components of DL performance for gaining an effective change in overall performance and particularly in the executive component of this task. The Bergen DL paradigm (simultaneous presentation of two syllable pairs of PA, TA, KA, BA, DA, GA) consists of three conditions: The non-forced (NF) condition (“what do you hear first?”) reflects a lateralized perceptual process (bottom-up) usually resulting in right-ear advantage (REA). In the forced-right (FR) condition (“concentrate on the right ear syllables only”), bottom-up and top-down processes work together to strengthen the right-ear response, i.e., REA. The forced-left (FL) condition is a conflict between the two processes, calling for inhibitory control. i.e. ability to resist REA. The training paradigms applied to 40 young adult right-handed participants (+ 10 controls) were bottom-up, top-down, and combined trainings that comprised manipulating stimulus intensity and/or task of the participant. The participants performed executive tasks (auditory-spatial Stroop, visual Stroop, auditory letter n-back, auditory go/no-go spatial attention task) and a DL task before training and after the 4-week training period. The DL was also applied in between. The results indicate that only top-down training proved effective. It induced balancing of REA in the NF-condition and improvement of overall performance in the FL-condition, possibly via the strengthening of the top-down, executive processes. Also, the top-down training resulted in a slight improvement to the transfer effect in the auditory go/no-go spatial attention task. This study was supported by the Nordic Center of Excellence in Cognitive Control.
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