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Working Memory Problems Associated with Attention Deficit Disorder

Posted by on Dec 7, 2012 in Articles, Cogmed Memory Training | 0 comments

In this article we will explore some of the recent relevant research in the areas of working memory, learning disabilities and ADHD. These studies point out the importance of discovering any comorbid conditions that may exist with ADHD to adequately choose the most advantageous instructional strategies that will most benefit each child.

ADHD children are frequently diagnosed with language impairments (LI). Both of these conditions are identified with poor academic achievement and ineffective comprehension. Children with LI have difficulties with structural language, logic, and narrative dialogue (Cohen & Vallance 2000). Deficits in expressive language ability and auditory verbal memory lend to reduced practical competence among children with LI because response time, lexical selection, cohesion, and topic maintenance are all negatively impacted (Cohen & Vallance 2000).

Reading disabilities (RD) frequently exist in children with ADHD. RD begins with difficulties decoding words. This affects the child’s reading comprehension and fluency. Decoding skills are connected to phonological processing (the ability to understand and recall the use of sounds) (Kuder, 2008). These poor phonological skills create difficulty identifying sounds within words and the words themselves (Kuder, 2008). Studies show that reading comprehension relies heavily on working memory (Swanson & O’Connor, 2009; Martinussen & Tannock, 2006).  Working memory is responsible for holding recently perceived information and making connections with previous knowledge allowing for understanding of what has been read.

Learning and language acquisition both rely on the importance of attention, short-term, and working memory (Kuder, 2008; Lerner & Kline, 2006).  Attention allows the child to discriminate information in short-term memory and to exchange with and retrieve information from long-term memory (Kuder, 2008). Through this process, new information can be connected to previously stored knowledge. Working memory receives information from the senses, processes the information, and sends it to short-term memory. Working memory has been the focus of recent research on children with reading disabilities (RD), language impairments (LI) and ADHD (Martinussen & Tannock, 2006;  Swanson, Kehler, & Jerman, 2010).

In attention deficits there is an impaired ability to screen out unnecessary information and attend to what is most important at a certain time. A child with attention deficits, perceives many sensory stimuli competing for their attention and is unable to easily focus adequately on the primary learning task. Research shows that this deficit is in selective attention, much more than in sustained attention (Weiler, Bernstein, Bellinger, & Waber, 2002). Most of the research has centered on children with clinical levels of inattention, but without clinical levels of hyperactivity/impulsivity (ADHD-predominantly inattentive type (ADHD-IA). Selective attention relates to the ability to perform a task while experiencing competing non-relevant stimuli (Weiler, et al., 2002). Children with selective attention difficulties processed information more slowly than the control group particularly when there was increased cognitive pressure and several component operations. Interestingly however, the same children did not experience comprehensive information processing deficits, nor did they experience problems with attention on tasks that demanded sustained attention (Weiler, et al., 2002).  They showed no delay in performing tasks of motor response and basic decision making either (Weiler, et al., 2002). This research suggests that ADHD-IA children are able to allocate information to working memory in the presence of fewer distractions and or an elevated level of motivational interest. Parents and teachers observe this when these children are engaged in tasks which hold sustained interest.

ADHD children with comorbid LI have greater difficulty with working memory measures that those without LI in both verbal and nonverbal working memory (Cohen et al., 2000). One study found that even when nonverbal data is involved working memory is language based (Cohen et al., 2000). Difficulties processing phonological information in working memory, pragmatics, and narrative discourse skills are all related to LI. The weakest pragmatic skills are connected with having three comorbid conditions: ADHD, LI and RD. LI is associated with narrative discourse even if no RD is present. Further, impairments in auditory and verbal memory are predictors of poor pragmatic competence (Gomez & Condon, 1999).

Children with ADHD have moderate working memory deficits when compared to control populations; however, these deficits are more highly connected with comorbid disabilities, rather than the ADHD per se (Martinussen & Tannock, 2006). Studies also show that central auditory processing deficits are more likely to be associated with learning disabilities than ADHD (Gomex & Condon, 1999; Kataria, Hall, Wong, Keys, 1992). However since more than fifty percent of ADHD children have comorbid learning disabilities and LI these studies explain some of the reasons outcomes have remained less than optimal for these typically bright children.

MaryEllen Jirak MS. Ed is a long time educator with a master degree in Special Education. She is also the author of The Gift of ADD Secrets For Transforming Liabilities Into Possibilities and a new book called Cracking The ADD Code: Why Outcomes Haven’t changed and How They Can , plus a number of other eBooks on Attention Deficit Disorder.

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How Cogmed Works

Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in Articles, Cogmed Memory Training | 0 comments

Cogmed Working Memory Training (Cogmed) is a computer-based solution for attention problems related to poor working memory. The program combines cognitive neuroscience and innovative computer game design with close professional support to deliver substantial and lasting benefits.

The program consists of 25 computerized training sessions, each 30-45 minutes long. Each session is made up of a variety of tasks targeting the many different aspects of working memory. The training is done on a computer at home, in school, or at work. The training program lasts five weeks and the client accomplishes five sessions each week. It is a rigorous program designed to improve working memory through intensive and systematic training.

Strength of the Training

Cogmed challenges the user’s working memory capacity. Each of the computerized, cognitive exercises were designed by neuroscientists to target this key cognitive function that has been proven to be fundamental to executive function and attention. The details of the exercise design allow the program to be intensely focused while also providing slight variations. The logic is very much like in the case of the fitness machines used for building muscle strength in a gym. Cogmed is highly focused, cognitive weightlifting.


The level of difficulty in the training is adjusted in real time based on the user’s performance. Fine-tuning the calibration specific to each user means that each individual is always training at the very edge of his or her cognitive capacity. This holds true for all users, from a young child with severely impaired capability, to an adult in adequate cognitive shape. Cogmed training challenges and improves your brain no matter where you begin the process.

How Cogmed Improves Other Cognitive Skills

When you improve your working memory capacity, the change generalizes to all functioning. This means, the changes are translated to other processes not just working memory. By training a tightly defined cognitive function, you create a cascading effect of improvements. You will be better able to pay attention, resist distractions, self-manage and learn.


Many studies of Cogmed’s efficacy have been published in peer-reviewed journals since 2002. These include several randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, as well as studies documenting changes in brain activity following Cogmed training. You can find a complete list of completed and ongoing research related to Cogmed on their website. Other studies are listed on the supporting research section of this website.

Quality Assurance

Every use of Cogmed programs is backed by a Ph.D. psychologist or a medical doctor (MD) who ensures that the quality of service meets Cogmed’s standards. Great Beginnings is Cogmed Qualified Coach Site, with quality assurance provided by the Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic, a Cogmed Qualified Practice.

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Who Can Be Helped by Working Memory Training?

Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in Articles, Cogmed Memory Training | 0 comments

Dr. Rosemary Tannock who is a professor of psychiatry and special education at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children as well as a leading expert on working memory, says that working memory is important for everyone. “We use working memory almost constantly in daily life,” she says. “It’s required for learning, problem solving, reading, listening, and many other tasks of large and small importance.” A steady stream of recent research has affirmed the importance of working memory to a broad range of populations, including:

Students – Nowhere is working memory more crucial than in the classroom. Math, reading, and the processes we use to internalize information are utterly dependent on a healthy working memory capacity. Without working memory, learning could not take place. In her book, working Memory and Learning: A Practical Guide for Teachers, Dr. Susan Gathercole a renowned expert from the University of York, calls working memory “the engine of learning” because it has shown to be the primary indicator of academic performance.

Test Takers – High school, college, and graduate students around the U.S. determine their future in large part by their performance on standardized tests such as the SAT, Act, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT. Lasting several hours, these tests require students to focus at a very high level, meticulously manage their time and perform well under pressure. To do so effectively, students need a strong working memory. Research from leading neuroscientists indicates that working memory is the most important indicator of academic success. In a testing environment, working memory is what allows the student to quickly recall information, make mathematical and logical computations and stay focused as a time limit approaches.

Athletes – Athletes thrive on their ability to make split-second decisions. Working memory, which is crucial for performing under stress, is a tremendous asset on the sports field, “Athletes have to take in and hold onto different sets of information on the field or court,” says Dr. Paul White, a clinical psychologist from Witchita, Kansas, “Working memory impacts their ability to make decisions and be effective.

Professionals – Professionals are challenged more than ever to stay on track, prioritize activities, and overcome the persistent distractions that slow productivity. Working memory is crucial in this en vironment. Professionals with strong working memory capacity are efficient with their time and well equipped to multi-task. They perform well under pressure, remain organized and stay focused on the task at hand.

People with attention deficits – When working memory is impaired, the impact on daily life can be quite debilitating. Working memory problems are present in a range of medical conditions including many who have been diagnosed with ADHD, victims of stroke, and traumatic brain injury and cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy. Understanding the way that working memory functions and how it is made stronger or weaker is crucial for effectively improving the daily functioning for these populations.

Aging adults – Working memory reaches its peak between 25 and 30 and then begins a gradual decline. Around the age of 55, impairments in working memory become noticeable in daily life. “It is natural for working memory to decline with age,” says Dr. Lee Hyer, a psychologist from Georgia who specializes in senior care. “As a result, it becomes more difficult to think, organize, plan and do several things at once. When you look at aging brains, there are areas that are affected both by the normal aging process and other brain areas that, for many, represent a degenerative process, such as dementia. Working memory is almost always involved in all decline processes.

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What is Working Memory – Why is it Important?

Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in Articles, Cogmed Memory Training | 0 comments

Working memory is connected with the coinciding storage and processing of transitory information. Various components of working memory are connected with different functions. These components are responsible for comprehension, attention, retaining and retrieving information. Functions such as maintaining orientation in space, following directions or patterns and monitoring changes within the visual field over time are all carried out here. (Kibby, Michelle, Marks, Morgan, & Long, 2004). Once any information is processed, it is sent to long term memory to be stored.

Skilled readers have stronger, more efficient working memories than poor readers. This is not due to poor reading skills, rather it is because they have less working-memory capability to perform reading and non-reading tasks (Swanson, &Siegel, 2001). More than two decades of research shows a clear and distinct correlation between working memory deficits and Learning Disabilities diagnosed in children and adults (Swanson, & Siegel, 2001).

Working memory has also been found to be the most important factor in determining learning outcomes for students of every age. Its importance outweighs IQ and phonological skills in learning success.

Since one in ten students has poor working memories, a good number of students are unable to reach their learning and social competency potentials. Working memory is a fundamental cognitive tool needed to accomplish a multitude of tasks. It is particularly important in reading and math. It is the basis of classroom learning: beginning with copying from the blackboard and following directions to more complicated tasks like reading comprehension, mental math, and mathematical word problems.

A majority of students with learning challenges demonstrate visual-spatial and verbal working memory difficulties. This compromises their ability to process and store information effectively resulting in less than optimal performance. Unless they receive assistance to improve their working memory these students will not perform as well as their peers.

With such a compelling correlation between the working memory and the learning disabilities, it is clear that schools must improve instructional methods which enhance a student’s effectiveness in maintaining and manipulating more information. This can be attained through a focus on well designed, research-based instruction, which enhance “on-task behavior”. Strategies such as mnemonics, keywords have been shown to be very effective in decreasing the strain on the working memory. This assists the student’s ability to more easily retrieve already stored information and place their attention on processing incoming information. The use of positive feedback, scaffolding, and Cogmed can improve the proficiency of the working memory and profoundly affect the person’s overall achievement.

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Cogmed Overview

Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in Articles, Cogmed Memory Training | 0 comments

Cogmed Working Memory Training

Great Beginnings in partnership with Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic is honored to provide Cogmed Working Memory Training.

Cogmed is a computerized training program whose efficacy has been demonstrated through peer-reviewed scientific journals, including several randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, and evaluations by research with no affiliation to Cogmed. It was designed by leading neuroscientists to improve attention by effectively increasing working memory capacity over a 5 week training period.

Cogmed has been shown to be effective for persons diagnosed with attention deficits, those who have sustained a brain injury, stroke victims, persons experiencing the deteriorating effects of normal aging, or those not performing up to their potential, academically or professionally, given their intelligence and effort.

 Having a strong working memory is essential to learning. Poor working memory can result in significant learning difficulties. Possessing a strong working memory is a key indicator for academic success and translates into more effective classroom performance, particularly in reading and math.

Working memory is a principal cognitive function associated with attention and focus. It is the ability to maintain information for several seconds in your mind, manipulate it, and apply it in your thinking and reasoning. It is fundamental for concentration, problem solving, and impulse control. It is essential to improve intelligence and is a crucial indicator of success both academically and professionally. Poor working memory is a primary difficulty associated to ADHD, and other learning disabilities.

Attention, concentration, focus, impulse control, social skills, and complex reasoning skills are all substantially improved by Cogmed training through the long-term increase in working memory capacity. The outcome is enhanced performance, heightened attention, and success. Research and clinical results demonstrate that Cogmed’s Training effects are long lasting making its benefits even more compelling. Following initial training, an added bonus of Extension Training is available to users at no additional cost.

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