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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 can be trained by intensive and targeted Brain Fitness Programs supported by the use of computer-based programs, like RoboMemo, the program that I came to know last year after a great Scientific American article that mentioned their clinical study with kids with ADD/ ADHD, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (See research here).

You can read more information on the science of Brain Fitness Programs.

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8 Responses

  1. Elona says:

    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 says:

    Hi Elona,

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


  3. mike says:

    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

  4. Alvaro says:

    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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