What is it that makes some people able to accomplish more tasks most quickly? Is there one aspect of cognitive abilities that is more important than others? For many people, the answer to these questions has to do with the concept of working memory. Working memory in a human can almost be compared to RAM in a computer. It is the information that is retained, maintained, and manipulated over the course of a few seconds. Working memory is at the heart of higher cognitive functions.
When a person reads neuroscience training info, they learn that working memory is limited. There is only a certain amount of information that an individual can store and manipulate at the same time. However, people who are perceived to have higher cognitive skills have learned how to increase the amount of information they can store in their working memory. Their training allows them to manipulate the neural mechanisms involved in working memory, thereby expanding and augmenting its capability.
The idea of expanding working memory is not purely conceptual. It is something that neurophysiologists have been able to document via imaging studies, as well as neurophysiological recordings. The majority of these recordings have been performed on primates. These studies have shown that with the right training, the activity of the prefrontal neurons can be increased, which in turn improves the connectivity of the prefrontal cortex. There is also improved connectivity between the prefrontal and the parietal cortex.
Training increases the level of dopamine in the body, as well as other chemicals in the brain that lead to higher cognitive functions. Of course, treatment can only do so much. There are certain people who are genetically wired to have a larger amount of working memory than others. But, even in these individuals, training can increase the amount of working memory that they have, as well as their ability to access their higher cognitive functions in a fast way.
It is easy to understand why having a larger capacity for working memory and a faster recall could improve a person’s ability to work, learn, and interact with others. There are multiple tests that are performed throughout the day that require the use of working memory. For example, you could be given a list of numbers or facts that you need to remember and then recall within a short period of time or manipulate within a short period of time to produce the desired response. The more working memory a person has, the easier it is for them to complete these tasks.