Computerised working memory training & ADHD

Computerised working memory training & ADHD

Dr Shelley Hyman

Parents of children with ADHD are aware of the numerous treatment strategies for the disorder, so when it comes to trying new treatments parents need to be informed on the benefits and the evidence that support those benefits, as no one wants to spend time and money on a treatment that does not produce significant results.

Individuals with ADHD often have significantly impaired working memory, which is the system that holds information in the mind, where they can be manipulated and used in thinking.

In order to directly address the underlying deficits of the disorder there has been a focus on an alternative intervention known as computerised training programs, the most popular being CogMed. These interventions aim to improve working memory by allowing individuals to complete memory exercises on the computer.

Although these interventions have some advantages, such as being non-invasive and fun for the individual, and minimal side effects, studies have produced mixed findings regarding the benefits of the programs in managing ADHD symptoms.

A recent study by Chacko and colleagues (2013), published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, examined 7 experiments that used computerised training on youth with ADHD.

Two of these studies demonstrated improvements in neurological outcomes and parent-rated symptoms, while another revealed no significant improvements on parent-rated hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms or teacher-rated outcomes.

Published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry is a more recent study by Dongen-Boomsma, Vollebregt, Buitelaar and Slaats-Willemse (2014) that also examined the effectiveness of computerised working memory training as a treatment for children with ADHD. It failed to find significant evidence for benefits of the treatment on behavioural, neurocognitive and global clinical functioning outcomes in ADHD youth.

The majority of peer reviewed journals claim that computerised training programs “may” improve an ADHD child’s ability to focus and that it is a “possibly” efficacious treatment, with the possible benefits including improved working memory which leads to improved attention, behaviour and capacity to learn, but whether these gains are short-term or long-term are still being evaluated.

This lack of consistent evidence would suggest that the computerised training program is not a suitable treatment strategy for ADHD.

Reference

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Dr Shelley Hyman

About Dr Shelley Hyman

Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist. BSc (psychol) Hons, MClinNeuropsych, PhD (Med) MAPS CCN. Founder and director of the centre that was founded in 2006.

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