Will Working Memory Training Generalize to Improve Off-Task Behavior in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?
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Computerized working memory and executive function training programs designed to target specific impairments in executive functioning are becoming increasingly available, yet how well these programs generalize to improve functional deficits in disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), beyond the training context is not well-established. The aim of this study was to examine the extent to which working memory (WM) training in children with ADHD would diminish a core dysfunctional behavior associated with the disorder, “off-task” behavior during academic task performance. The effect of computerized WM training (adaptive) was compared to a placebo condition (nonadaptive) in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design in 26 children (18 males; age, 7 to 14 years old) diagnosed with ADHD. Participants completed the training in approximately 25 sessions. The Restricted Academic Situations Task (RAST) observational system was used to assess aspects of off-task behavior during the completion of an academic task. Traditional measures of ADHD symptoms (Conners’ Parent Rating Scale) and WM ability (standardized WM tests) were also collected. WM training led to significant reductions in off-task ADHD-associated behavior on the RAST system and improvement on WM tests. There were no significant differences between groups in improvement on parent rating scales. Findings lend insight into the generalizability of the effects of WM training and the relation between deficits in WM and off-task behavioral components of ADHD. These preliminary data suggest WM training may provide a mechanism for indirectly altering academic performance in children with ADHD.
KeywordsAttention academic behavior treatment RAST children ADHD cognitive training.
We would like to thank the families for their participation, Joan Gunther, Psy.D., Gary Ho, M.A., Danielle Mizuiri, B.S., Tseng-Mei Yip, B.S., Christina Blake, B.S., and Kyle Rutledge for their assistance, and Cogmed for providing us with the software licenses at no cost. We have no financial disclosures. We declare that there is no real or perceived conflict of interest for the authors. Full conflict of interest disclosures are available in the electronic supplementary material for this article.
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