Jaeggi researches training and transfer, individual differences in working memory capacity and executive control, as well as the nature of working memory limitations across the lifespan. She directs UCI's Working Memory and Plasticity Lab (WMP). Jaeggi is a fellow of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Cognitive Sciences in UCI's School of Social Sciences.
The human brain has evolved to learn in information-rich environments in which integration of information from multiple sensory inputs is ubiquitous. While perception and cognition are often studied within one sensory modality at a time, there is growing evidence that much of the neocortex is inherently multisensory (Ghazanfar & Schroeder, 2006; Murray et al., 2016) and that multisensory processing is behaviorally advantageous, particularly when the sources are temporally and semantically related (Diaconescu et al., 2011). Models suggest that multisensory facilitation can arise through cross-sensory connections between unisensory representations and/or feedback to unisensory representations supporting stronger encoding in those regions as well as by modification or formation of multisensory representations, so that later presentation of unisensory stimuli activates an expanded, multisensory network of brain regions (Shams & Seitz, 2008).
Working memory (WM) is an example of a system that is thought to be multisensory in nature (Quak et al., 2015). WM training has shown to lead to improved performance on tasks that rely on short-term and WM components, particularly when the untrained tasks share similar processes as the trained task (Holmes et al., 2019). It has been suggested that transfer effects only occur if the training and transfer tasks engage specific overlapping brain regions and processes (Dahlin et al., 2008) and that paradigm-specific effects may reflect changes in strategies developed throughout training, rather than an improvement in the efficiency of WM (Forsberg et al., 2020).
In the present paper, we address issues of how to promote learning and (near) transfer within the same cognitive domain, namely, WM. We test the hypothesis that multisensory WM training will facilitate transfer to untrained tasks within the WM domain compared to visual WM training alone or training that contains visual and auditory stimuli but is presented as separate WM tasks. To address this hypothesis, we randomly assigned participants to one of 3 n-back training conditions and compared their learning and transfer to untrained WM tasks. The conditions consisted of a vision-only training, training that alternated between auditory and visual stimuli, or multisensory training where auditory and visual stimuli were presented concurrently. The performance of the three interventions was compared with that of a passive control group.