Cogmed Working Memory Training

The concept of neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to reorganize and change even after injury, is at the core of the Cognitive Rehabilitation approach in our practice. Optimal Minds Neuropsychology is proud to be a Cogmed Qualified Practice, offering Cogmed Working Memory TrainingTM as another valuable tool to achieve meaningful changes in brain functioning.

True to our belief in neuroplasticity, this training program is not aimed merely at teaching new skills, but changing the fundamental way in which the brain functions so that it can achieve a higher level of performance. Cogmed training is a viable solution for individuals whose level of achievement is being held back by their limited working memory capacity, such as children and adults with attention deficits or learning disorders, victims of brain injury or stroke, individuals experiencing information overload or a natural decline in cognitive performance due to aging. This program has the capacity to challenge and bring improvements no matter the initial level of cognitive capacity, from individuals who are quite impaired to those who only need some “fine tuning” to reach their peak performance.

Cogmed Working Memory TrainingTM is a computer intervention that has been shown to improve functioning in individuals with attention and working memory problems. This training program can be implemented at home and uses different exercises over a period of five weeks to train working memory in 25 training sessions. The intense quality of the program requires the training sessions to occur five days a week for a period of 15 to 45 minutes depending on the user’s age (preschoolers, children, adolescents, adults, geriatrics).

Contrary to many other programs available in the market, the improvements associated with Cogmed Working Memory Training have been consistently demonstrated through published, peer-reviewed and controlled clinical studies. About 80% of people who complete the program experience positive effects, such as a significant improvement in their ability to concentrate, exercise better impulse control, and use complex reasoning skills.

The improvements following completion of the training program have been shown to be substantial and long lasting, both in research and clinically. Most importantly, the changes in working memory capacity generalize to behaviors that impact the quality of our adaptive functioning at home, school, or workplace.

For instance, if a child is suddenly reading a little faster and remembering more of what is read; and subsequently the more material is remembered successfully the better reading comprehension is achieved—this is an example of stronger working memory capacity in action. In a successful scenario, reading will likely be more fun and the child may be more willing and interested in performing this activity with greater frequency or for longer periods of time.

Working memory, which can also be described as active attention, is an essential cognitive function that allows us to hold information in our minds for a brief period of time, typically a few seconds, just long enough to use the information in our thinking. It is the engine that quickly processes the flow of information that surrounds it, and is a good predictor for academic and professional success.

Depending on how well working memory may be functioning, we may be more or less effective in carrying out many developmentally important tasks and activities in daily life. Here are some examples:

 
AGE EFFECTIVE WORKING MEMORY PROBLEMATIC WORKING MEMORY
Pre School
  • Learning The Alphabet
  • Focusing on short requests such as “come brush your teeth”
  • Remaining seated to complete activities independently such as puzzles
  • Seems unwilling or unable to learn Alphabet, numbers
  • Can’t focus long enough to grasp and follow instructions
  • Jumps from one thing to another
Elementary School
  • Reading and understanding the content
  • Mental arithmetic
  • Interacting and responding appropriately in peer activities such as playing on school grounds
  • Reads but does not understand or remember material that was read
  • Problems memorizing math facts
  • Difficulty participating in group activities (e.g. waiting his/her turn) makes friends but can’t keep them
Middle School
  • Doing homework independently
  • Planning and packing for an activity such as a dance class
  • Solving multi-step math problems especially word problems
  • Participating in team sports, such as soccer
  • Doesn’t begin or persist with homework without supervision
  • Packs but forgets items essential for activity
  • Reads the problem but can’t break it into understandable parts
  • Problems grasping rules of game, functioning as a “team player
High School
  • Getting a driver’s license
  • Understanding social cues, responding to demands of social situations
  • Writing essays, reports
  • Problems with spatial awareness, reading and following traffic rules
  • Interrupts, talks excessively, doesn’t listen to others
  • Essays and reports are short, sloppy, Disorganized
College
  • Focusing and following a conversation
  • Making and adhering to work plans such as studying for an exam
  • Sustaining focus and interest throughout lectures
  • Changes topic suddenly, makes irrelevant comments
  • Procrastinates, then tries to “cram” the night before an exam
  • Falls asleep or “zones out” during lectures
Adults
  • Getting to work on time
  • Meeting deadlines at work
  • Prioritizing multiple activities
  • Handling conflicts within family
  • Frequently late for work
  • Often underestimates time required for a task
  • Has problems breaking a project into manageable steps
  • Often loses temper with children and spouse
Seniors
  • For seniors who are working all the adult items are relevant
  • Being able to perform what you are planning to do
  • Organizing your materials and activities
  • Managing important financial transactions
  • For seniors who are working all the adult items are relevant
  • Being able to perform what you are planning to do
  • Organizing your materials and activities
  • Managing important financial transactions

As you can see from the table above, working memory plays an important role in our ability to: a) remember instructions about what to do next (e.g keeping driving directions in our heads while following through), b) keep all parts of a number in memory (e.g keeping all the digits in mind to do a calculation), c) read and remember what is read, d) keep information in memory so as to use for problem-solving, e) sequence a task or perform the various steps of a task in a specific order, f) attend to the task at hand without becoming distracted by irrelevant stimuli, g) plan, organize and structure our daily lives.

Although results may vary and the effects in each individual can never be guaranteed, research and clinical data consistently show an 80% success rate for this program – meaning that 8 out of 10 users who complete this program experience measurable effects in daily life.

Changes can be observable immediately following completion of the Cogmed Training, but often more substantial gains have been reported after some time has elapsed (3-4 weeks, and over longer periods as well). Parents and/or teacher have reported the following:

  • The child communicates better
  • The child is more focused
  • The child acts more “mature”
  • The child takes more initiative on his/her own (e.g. self-initiate chores including homework without nagging or reminders)
  • The child concentrates and sustains attention for longer periods of time
  • The child performs better on academic tasks
  • The child shows greater interest in school work
  • The child is more organized (e.g room is neater, better personal grooming)
  • The child remembers directions and routines (e.g maintains assignment book, turns in homework)
  • The child has improved frustration tolerance, thinks before acting, has fewer “meltdowns”, is calmer
  • The child shows better reading comprehension, retention and retrieval, with resulting improvement in test performance
  • The child is able to master math facts more easily
  • The child shows more self-confidence, more sense of responsibility and improved social interaction

Cogmed Working Memory Training is not intended to be a substitute for a consultation with a health care provider or for pharmacological intervention that a doctor may prescribe. However, Cogmed has analyzed training effects for children who are on medication (methylphenidate) compared to children without medication, and found that both groups benefit equally from the training.

If you would like more information about Cogmed Working Memory Training, please go to their website at: www.cogmed.com