Affective cognitive control, defined as the ability to regulate emotions or manipulate emotional material in the service of task goals, is associated with professional and interpersonal success. Poor affective control, by contrast, characterizes many neuropsychiatric disorders. Since affective cognitive control appears to rely on the same frontoparietal neural circuitry as working memory, the authors suggest that working memory training, performed in an emotional context, has the potential to augment affective control.

In this report, Schweizer and colleagues show that 20 days of training on a novel emotional working memory protocol successfully enhanced the efficiency of this frontoparietal network. Both behavioral and fMRI results were used in this study. Compared with placebo training, emotional working memory training also “accrued transfer benefits to a “gold standard” measure of affective cognitive control–emotion regulation”. These emotion regulation gains were associated with greater activity in the targeted frontoparietal network along with other brain regions implicated in affective control, such as the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. The authors suggest that these results have important implications for the utility of working memory training in clinical, prevention, and occupational settings.

Schweizer S, Grahn J, Hampshire A, Mobbs D and Dalgleish T: Training the Emotional Brain: Improving Affective Control through Emotional Working Memory Training. J. Neurosci. 33(12): 5301-5311 (2013).

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