Abstract

Researchers have proposed that solving complex reasoning problems, a key indicator of fluid intelligence, involves the same cognitive processes as solving working memory tasks. This proposal is supported by an overlap of the functional brain activations associated with the two types of tasks and by high correlations between interindividual differences in performance. We replicated these findings in 53 older participants but also showed that solving reasoning and working memory problems benefits from different configurations of the functional connectome and that this dissimilarity increases with a higher difficulty load. Specifically, superior performance in a typical working memory paradigm (n-back) was associated with upregulation of modularity (increased between-network segregation), whereas performance in the reasoning task was associated with effective downregulation of modularity. We also showed that working memory training promotes task-invariant increases in modularity. Because superior reasoning performance is associated with downregulation of modular dynamics, training may thus have fostered an inefficient way of solving the reasoning tasks. This could help explain why working memory training does little to promote complex reasoning performance. The study concludes that complex reasoning abilities cannot be reduced to working memory and suggests the need to reconsider the feasibility of using working memory training interventions to attempt to achieve effects that transfer to broader cognition.

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