Benefits of a Working Memory training program

Working Memory, a core cognitive function, is the ability to temporarily hold information in the mind and manipulate it. It is consistently shown to be important for aspects of everyday functioning, including maintaining attention in daily activities and for academic achievement, particularly mathematics.

One way to improve Working Memory is through targeted computerized training. A number of Working Memory training methods have been developed and a rapidly increasing number of randomized controlled trials are evaluating the benefits of the different methods.

It has been suggested that benefits of a Working Memory training program can generalize to improve performance on reasoning tasks and reading comprehension, as well as functioning in daily life (e.g. improved attention in daily activities). These benefits for everyday functioning could have exciting implications with both theoretical and clinical significance. One special case is for people with ADHD, where impaired Working Memory and inattentive behavior are considered core features of the disorder.

A new study conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the Cogmed Working Memory training program, and its improvement of inattention in daily life. The Cogmed program involves computerized adaptive training of Working Memory in 20 or more sessions over a period of five weeks. Each session involves training on verbal and visuospatial Working Memory tasks.

12 group comparisons that trained on the Cogmed program were reviewed, and the major finding was that benefits of a Working Memory training program were generalized to improvements in everyday functioning, compared with a control program.

Children, adolescents and adults benefit from the training, emphasizing plasticity across a wide age range. Individuals at risk of Working Memory impairments (like those with ADHD) also showed improved attention in daily life after the training. The benefits of the training for counteracting inattention in daily life were shown to last for 2 to 8 months after the training, and remained significant.

This meta-analysis showed that benefits of a Working Memory training program generalize to improvements in everyday functioning. Specifically, it has a clinically relevant benefit for inattention in daily life after training based on commonly used and validated measures. Initial evidence shows that this robust benefit was observed for groups of children and adults as well as individuals diagnosed with ADHD and impaired Working Memory.

Test your working memory with our Memory Challenge.

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