Functional brain changes following cognitive and motor skills training: a quantitative meta-analysis

Neurorehabil Neural Repair. Mar-Apr 2013;27(3):187-99. doi: 10.1177/1545968312461718. Epub 2012 Oct 23.


Background: Functional neuroimaging is increasingly used in rehabilitation research to map the neural mechanisms subserving training targets. These data can inform intervention design and improve evaluation of treatment outcomes. Reliable neural markers may provide standard metrics of treatment impact and allow consideration of behavioral outcomes in the context of functional brain changes.

Objective: To identify common patterns of functional brain changes associated with training across a diverse range of intervention protocols. Reliable brain changes could inform development of candidate neural markers to guide intervention research.

Methods: Taking a quantitative meta-analytic approach, we review the functional neuroimaging studies of cognitive and motor skills training interventions in healthy young adults (N = 38).

Results: Reliable decreases in functional brain activity from pretraining to posttraining were observed in brain regions commonly associated with cognitive control processes, including lateral prefrontal, left anterior inferior parietal lobule, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. Training-related increases were observed in the medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate and angular gyrus, core regions of the default network. Activity within the subcortical striatum also showed reliable increases pretraining to posttraining.

Conclusions: These data suggest that altered engagement of large-scale, spatially distributed cortical brain networks and subcortical striatal brain regions may serve as candidate neural markers of training interventions. The development of reliable metrics based on activity and functional connectivity among large-scale brain networks may prove fruitful in identifying interactions between domain-general and -specific changes in brain activity that affect behavioral outcomes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Neuroimaging / methods*