Cognitive and hippocampal changes weeks and years after memory training.
Bråthen ACS., Sørensen Ø., de Lange A-MG., Mowinckel AM., Fjell AM., Walhovd KB.
While immediate effects of memory-training are widely reported in young and older adults, less is known regarding training-dependent hippocampal plasticity across multiple intervention phases, and long-term maintenance of such. Here, 157 healthy young and older adults underwent a training-intervention including two 10 weeks periods of episodic-memory training, separated by two 2 weeks periods of no training. Both age groups showed improvements on a criterion task, which prevailed after 3 years. When compared to the reference condition of no training, relative increases in hippocampal volume were observed after the training across age groups, which were maintained after 10 weeks periods of no training. However, there was age-group dependent temporal variation with respect to timing of effects. Hippocampal volume of the training group did not differ from that of a passive control-group 3 years after the intervention. The young showed an immediate near-transfer effect on a word-association task. We show that training-gains on memory performance can prevail for at least 3 years. Memory training can induce increases in hippocampal volume immediately after the intervention and after months. Episodic-memory training can produce transfer effects to a non-trained memory task in young adults. However, maintained effects on hippocampal volume beyond 10 weeks are uncertain, and likely require continuous training.