Distinguishing the visual working memory training and practice effects by the effective connectivity during n-back tasks: A DCM of ERP study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Visual working memory (WM) training and practice can result in improved task performance and increased P300 amplitude; however, only training can yield N160 enhancements. N160 amplitudes are related to the spatial attention, the detection of novelty and the inhibitory control, while P300 amplitudes are related to the selective attention. Therefore, it could be speculated that the mechanisms underlying N160 and P300 production may differ to accommodate to their functions. Based on the different N160 engagements and different functional roles of N160 and P300, we hypothesized that the effects of visual WM training and practice can be dissociated by their brain effective connectivity patterns. We compared different neural connectivity configurations for the main task-related brain activities including N160 and P300 during the visual three-back task in subjects after visual WM training (the WM group) and after repetitive task practice (the control group). The behavioral result shows significantly greater improvement in accuracy after training and suggests that visual WM training can boost the learning process of this simple task. The N160 peak amplitude increased significantly after training over the anterior and posterior brain areas but decreased after practice over the posterior areas, indicating different mechanisms for mediating the training and practice effects. In support of our hypothesis, we observed that visual WM training alters the frontal-parietal connections, which comprise the executive control network (ECN) and the dorsal attention network (DAN), whereas practice modulates the parietal-frontal connections underpinning P300 production for selective attention. It should be noted that the analytic results in this study are conditional on the plausible models being tested and the experimental settings. Studies that employ different tasks, devices and plausible models may lead to different results. Nevertheless, our findings provide a reference for distinguishing the visual WM training and practice effects by the underlying neuroplasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number84
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
StatePublished - 30 Apr 2019


  • Dorsal attention network
  • Effective connectivity
  • Executive control network
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Visual working memory training


Dive into the research topics of 'Distinguishing the visual working memory training and practice effects by the effective connectivity during n-back tasks: A DCM of ERP study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this