Working Memory Positively Associated with Higher Physical Endurance and Better Cognitive Function

Summary: A new study reports there is a positive link between working memory, physical health and lifestyle.

Source: Mount Sinai Hospital.

Mount Sinai researchers have found a positive relationship between the brain network associated with working memory — the ability to store and process information relevant to the task at hand — and healthy traits such as higher physical endurance and better cognitive function

These traits were associated with greater cohesiveness of the working memory brain network while traits indicating suboptimal cardiovascular and metabolic health, and suboptimal health habits including binge drinking and regular smoking, were associated with less cohesive working memory networks.

This is the first study to establish the link between working memory and physical health and lifestyle choices.

The results of the study will be published online in Molecular Psychiatry.

The research team took brain scans of 823 participants in the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a large brain imaging study funded by the National Institutes of Health, while they performed a task involving working memory, and extracted measures of brain activity and connectivity to create a brain map of working memory. The team then used a statistical method called sparse canonical correlation to discover the relationships between the working memory brain map and 116 measures of cognitive ability, physical and mental health, personality, and lifestyle choices. They found that cohesiveness in the working memory brain map was positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function. Physical traits such as high body mass index, and suboptimal lifestyle choices including binge alcohol drinking and regular smoking, had the opposite association.

Image shows a woman and child doing push ups.

“Working memory accounts for individual differences in personal, educational, and professional attainment,” said Sophia Frangou, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Working memory is also one of the brain functions that is severely affected by physical and mental illnesses. Our study identified factors that can either support or undermine the working memory brain network. Our findings can empower people to make informed choices about how best to promote and preserve brain health.”


Funding: The study was supported by the American Heart Association grant PRE21410010, the National Institutes of Health grants K01AR064313, HL108795, AR050250, AR054796, AR064546 and AI092490, the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation grant 2013247, the Rheumatology Research Foundation grant Agmt 05/06/14, and the Mabel Green Myers Chair of Medicine. Flow Cytometry Cell Sorting was performed on a BD FACSAria SORP system, which was purchased through the support of the National Institutes of Health grant 1S10OD011996-01. Flow cytometry and histology services were provided by the Mount Sinai Hospital Lurie Cancer Center Flow Cytometry facility and Mouse Histology and Phenotyping Laboratory, which are supported by the National Cancer Institute grant P30-CA060553 awarded to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Source: Rachel Zuckerman – Mount Sinai Hospital
Publisher: Organized by
Image Source: image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Full open access research for “An integrated brain–behavior model for working memory” by D A Moser, G E Doucet, A Ing, D Dima, G Schumann, R M Bilder & S Frangou in Molecular Psychiatry. Published online December 5 2017 doi:10.1038/mp.2017.247

Mount Sinai Hospital “Working Memory Positively Associated with Higher Physical Endurance and Better Cognitive Function.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 5 December 2017.


An integrated brain–behavior model for working memory

Working memory (WM) is a central construct in cognitive neuroscience because it comprises mechanisms of active information maintenance and cognitive control that underpin most complex cognitive behavior. Individual variation in WM has been associated with multiple behavioral and health features including demographic characteristics, cognitive and physical traits and lifestyle choices. In this context, we used sparse canonical correlation analyses (sCCAs) to determine the covariation between brain imaging metrics of WM-network activation and connectivity and nonimaging measures relating to sensorimotor processing, affective and nonaffective cognition, mental health and personality, physical health and lifestyle choices derived from 823 healthy participants derived from the Human Connectome Project. We conducted sCCAs at two levels: a global level, testing the overall association between the entire imaging and behavioral–health data sets; and a modular level, testing associations between subsets of the two data sets. The behavioral–health and neuroimaging data sets showed significant interdependency. Variables with positive correlation to the neuroimaging variate represented higher physical endurance and fluid intelligence as well as better function in multiple higher-order cognitive domains. Negatively correlated variables represented indicators of suboptimal cardiovascular and metabolic control and lifestyle choices such as alcohol and nicotine use. These results underscore the importance of accounting for behavioral–health factors in neuroimaging studies of WM and provide a neuroscience-informed framework for personalized and public health interventions to promote and maintain the integrity of the WM network.

“An integrated brain–behavior model for working memory” by D A Moser, G E Doucet, A Ing, D Dima, G Schumann, R M Bilder & S Frangou in Molecular Psychiatry. Published online December 5 2017 doi:10.1038/mp.2017.247