Effects of working memory training on emotion regulation: Transdiagnostic review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Working memory training is widely used transdiagnostically to improve cognition. However, more recently, studies using working memory training packages have targeted emotion-regulation outcomes to determine whether far transfer effects can be achieved. A narrative review is conducted of studies that have used standardized computerized working memory training packages across healthy volunteers, affect, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disordered populations with emotion-regulation outcomes. Working memory training has been used in children, adolescents, and adults to improve emotion regulation. Many studies have reported gains in mood as well as emotion-regulation strategies following working memory training, regardless of clinical indication and whether near transfer gains were achieved in cognitive domains. Significant emotion-regulation outcomes include: state and trait anxiety, rumination, brooding, positive appraisal, decreasing maladaptive emotion-regulation strategies, and decreasing intrusive thoughts. It is speculated that these far transfer outcomes from working memory training are possible due to the cognitive and neural overlap between cognitive and affective working memory, and emotion regulation. Working memory training could improve cognitive efficiency, which, in turn, increases the availability of cognitive resources during times when emotion regulation is taxed. Future studies need to consider the role of participant expectancy in predicting outcome measure performance, and including subjective and objective outcomes is paramount to study design. Furthermore, sample sizes require additional attention, given that the current review highlights that individual differences in non-clinical and clinical populations influence the outcomes from working memory training. Working memory training offers a possibility for improving emotion regulation transdiagnostically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-279
Number of pages22
JournalPsyCh Journal
Issue number2
Early online date12 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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