The neuroscience of working memory capacity and training

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2016 Jul;17(7):438-49. doi: 10.1038/nrn.2016.43. Epub 2016 May 26.


Working memory - the ability to maintain and manipulate information over a period of seconds - is a core component of higher cognitive functions. The storage capacity of working memory is limited but can be expanded by training, and evidence of the neural mechanisms underlying this effect is accumulating. Human imaging studies and neurophysiological recordings in non-human primates, together with computational modelling studies, reveal that training increases the activity of prefrontal neurons and the strength of connectivity in the prefrontal cortex and between the prefrontal and parietal cortex. Dopaminergic transmission could have a facilitatory role. These changes more generally inform us of the plasticity of higher cognitive functions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*