Working Memory Training and ADD/ADHD

Mark Katz, a San Diego clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist with decades of expe­ri­ence help­ing ADD/ ADHD kids and adults, and for­mer Board Mem­ber of CHADD, and I had a very good meet­ing with a few school super­in­ten­dents on Saturday.

We dis­cussed the research state-of-the-art, cur­rent ADD/ ADHD inter­ven­tions and the future of pre­ven­tion-dri­ven interventions.

Some high­lights from our talk:

- More and more researchers are com­ing to see that the label “Atten­tion deficit” was prob­a­bly not the most for­tu­nate one. Kids and adults with ADD/ ADHD can pay atten­tion, when they are engaged in cer­tain tasks, so the under­ly­ing prob­lem is not a deficit of attention.

- ADD/ ADHD is not a prob­lem of know­ing, but a prob­lem of doing. The bot­tle­neck may reside in exec­u­tive func­tions such as so-called work­ing mem­o­ry. The prob­lem is exe­cu­tion, inter­nal­ized behav­ior, not con­cep­tu­al knowledge.

- For more infor­ma­tion on Exec­u­tive func­tions, you can check the excel­lent review in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Psy­chi­a­try, of Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg’s book The Exec­u­tive Brain

- Work­ing mem­o­ry is the abil­i­ty to hold dif­fer­ent things on line and manip­u­late them in real time in order to solve a prob­lem, com­plete a task…

- When asked if “work­ing mem­o­ry” and “short-term mem­o­ry” are the same, Mark explained that they refer to sim­i­lar con­cepts, if not the same, but that researchers stopped using the term “short-term” mem­o­ry many years ago, to make it clear that it is an active, not pas­sive, skill. In fact, he added, maybe it should be called “work­ing atten­tion” rather than “work­ing memory”.

- We dis­cussed the for­tu­nate trend that many schools are migrat­ing towards a pub­lic health mod­el in help­ing kids with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties and ADD/ ADHD, focus­ing on more pre­ven­tion at ear­ly ages than on reac­tive inter­ven­tions to major problems.

- Work­ing mem­o­ry may be trained by tar­get­ed cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams sup­port­ed such as RoboMemo, a pro­gram that I came to know last year after a good Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can arti­cle that high­light­ed their clin­i­cal study with kids with ADD/ ADHD pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Child and Ado­les­cent Psychiatry.


  1. Elona on September 20, 2006 at 2:40

    Thanks for the link to the Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can arti­cle about ADHD research. I see a lot of kids in school with ADHD and am going to inves­ti­gate the alter­na­tive treat­ments for them.

  2. Alvaro on September 20, 2006 at 10:07

    Hi Elona,

    You can search for “Torkel Kling­berg” in PubMed, to find the orig­i­nal clin­i­cal research Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can refers to, and more.


  3. Elona on September 21, 2006 at 5:21

    thanks :)

  4. mike on December 30, 2006 at 2:42

    Inter­est­ing arti­cle, a lot of peo­ple with atten­tion prob­lems cer­tain­ly have work­ing mem­o­ry problems.

    I have ADD inat­ten­tive type. On a stan­dard­ised IQ test I scored around 120 but did poor­ly on the sub­tests requir­ing good work­ing mem­o­ry and quick think­ing, for exam­ple I was only able to count back­wards to 4 or 5 dig­its. I also did poor­ly on the cod­ing subtest.

    I am now start­ing to try some of the work­ing mem­o­ry pro­grammes on the mar­ket like MyBrain­Train­er and Brain­builder. I don’t know if they well lead to long term improve­ments but I am already find­ing they are quite a good way to kick-start a slug­gish brain first thing in the morning

  5. Alvaro on December 30, 2006 at 2:49

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Count­ing 4–5 dig­its back­wards is not bad at all!

    I agree those exer­cis­es can be more use­ful than cof­fee to wake up our brains…

    As far as I know, the only pro­gram with seri­ous data behind for a) trans­fer to real life and b) long-term effects, is Cogmed’s work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing, RoboMemo (you can find more info in our site), but right now it is only offered for kids.

    Hap­py 2007!

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SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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