A meta-analysis on neural changes of cognitive training for mental disorders in executive function tasks: increase or decrease brain activation?

BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Mar 1;22(1):155. doi: 10.1186/s12888-022-03796-4.


Background: Cognitive impairment is often found in patients with psychiatric disorders, and cognitive training (CT) has been shown to help these patients. To better understand the mechanisms of CT, many neuroimaging studies have investigated the neural changes associated with it. However, the results of those studies have been inconsistent, making it difficult to draw conclusions from the literature. Therefore, the objective of this meta-analysis was to identify consistent patterns in the literature of neural changes associated with CT for psychiatric disorders.

Methods: We searched for cognitive training imaging studies in PubMed, Cochrane library, Scopus, and ProQuest electronic databases. We conducted an activation likelihood estimation (ALE) for coordinate-based meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies, conduct behavioral analysis of brain regions identified by ALE analysis, conduct behavioral analysis of brain regions identified by ALE analysis, and then created a functional meta-analytic connectivity model (fMACM) of the resulting regions.

Results: Results showed that CT studies consistently reported increased activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and decreased activation in the left precuneus and cuneus from pre- to post- CT.

Conclusion: CT improves cognitive function by supporting language and memory function, and reducing neuronal resources associated with basic visual processing.

Keywords: Cognitive training; Mental disorder; Meta-analysis; Neuroimaging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cognition
  • Cognition Disorders*
  • Executive Function* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods