Gibson's new study examines effectiveness of working memory training for ADHD

Author: Arts and Letters


A new study by Bradley Gibson, associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, bears out the effectiveness of working memory training in improving attention deficits in children.

In 2006, Gibson and his research team studied 12 students diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) who had completed the Cogmed Working Memory Training Program at Discovery Middle School in Granger, Ind. Cogmed is a pioneer in neurotechnology and a developer of software-based working memory products.

In Gibson’s study, the students used video-game software developed by Cogmed to perform verbal and spatial working memory tasks for approximately 30 minutes, five days a week, for five weeks. At the conclusion of the training program, 75 percent of the students experienced positive improvement in ADHD symptoms.

Gibson’s results validate results of a study conducted at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, which earlier demonstrated the effectiveness of the Cogmed Working Memory study in treating ADHD symptoms.

Gibson’s study examines the issue of why the symptoms of inattention decrease when working memory improves.

“Working memory refers to information that we temporarily hold in our minds, such as telephone numbers or directions,” Gibson said. “We have both verbal working memory and spatial working memory and in our study, spatial working memory is more critical than verbal.”

Gibson’s team suggests that improvements in attention deficits result from changes in fluid intelligence, which is the ability to solve problems or adapt to new situations in real time.

“Spatial working memory improves fluid intelligence, which then reduces ADHD symptoms,” Gibson said. “Our findings are interesting because they provide an explicit model of how working memory, fluid IQ, and ADHD are dynamically inter-related over time.”

Gibson’s study also indicates that working memory training reduces ADHD symptoms in some children studied more than others.

“If we can understand why some individuals are better able to maximize the training benefits on working memory, then we can have a better understanding of how to maximize the clinical effectiveness of this intervention for ADHD and potentially other disabilities that arise from weakness in executive functioning,” Gibson said.

Gibson presented his findings Friday (March 30) during the bi-annual Society for Research in Child Development Conference in Boston.

Contact: Bradley Gibson, associate professor of psychology, 574-631-7138, .

Originally published by William G. Gilroy at on March 30, 2007.