Neural Effects of Cognitive Training in Schizophrenia: A Systematic Review and Activation Likelihood Estimation Meta-analysis

Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2019 Aug;4(8):688-696. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2019.03.005. Epub 2019 Mar 27.


Background: Cognitive dysfunction is a core feature of schizophrenia and a strong predictor of functional outcome. There is growing evidence for the effectiveness of behaviorally based cognitive training programs, although the neural basis of these benefits is unclear. To address this, we reviewed all published studies that have used neuroimaging to measure neural changes following cognitive training in schizophrenia to identify brain regions most consistently affected.

Methods: We searched PubMed for all neuroimaging studies examining cognitive training in schizophrenia published until December 2018. An activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis was conducted on a subset of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies to examine whether any brain regions showed consistent effects across studies.

Results: In total, 31 original neuroimaging studies of cognitive training were retrieved. Of these studies, 16 were functional neuroimaging studies, and 15 of these studies reported increased neural activation following cognitive training, with increased left prefrontal activation being the most frequently observed finding. However, activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis did not reveal any specific brain regions showing consistent effects across studies but rather suggested a broader, more distributed pattern of effects resulting from the interventions tested.

Conclusions: Although several studies reported increased left prefrontal cortical activation after cognitive training, the lack of statistically significant overlap of brain regions affected by training across studies suggests broad effects of training on brain activation, possibly due to the variety of training programs used.

Keywords: Cognitive remediation therapy; Meta-analysis; Neuroimaging; Neuroplasticity; Prefrontal; Psychosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Neuroimaging
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*
  • Schizophrenia / therapy*