Young woman from Sweden uses Cogmed to overcome WM deficit from childhood cancer treatment

Age: 15
Gender: Female
Location: Stockholm, Sweden

This fifteen year old girl from Stockholm never gave her parents or teachers reason to think that she had attention problems or was being held back by any cognitive deficiency. As an intelligent girl, she received good grades in school and although she would sometimes struggle to stay focused in class, no one thought it was reason for concern since she was excelling academically. As her mother said, “Her teacher always pointed out that [she] needed to concentrate more on her school work. I assumed there was really no need to worry about her since she, according to the teachers, always did well anyway.” But then her mother heard that certain cancer treatments can affect the ability to concentrate – cancer treatments this girl had gone through when she was younger.

Her mother began to wonder if her daughter’s cognitive capacity was as strong as it could be, even though it was already sufficient. The mother explained, “Because of her difficulties to stay focused in school, I contacted a hospital who scheduled us a time with a neuropsychologist. We spent one whole morning at the hospital to have her go through various tests. Most of it showed positive results – that she was in the normal range for her age, except for one test, where she had to recreate a figure which she had studied and copied just 40 minutes ago”. The tests showed that the young girl was above average for her age in many areas, but that her working memory was poor.

That summer, the mother researched working memory and found a dissertation from a pedagogical institution which explained the different functions of the memory and talked about ways to train the working memory. The dissertation mentioned Cogmed and after looking in to the training program, she decided to have her daughter try it.

The five week training program went very well and the mother has seen improvement in her daughter. As she said, “I do think that things work better for my daughter after she completed Cogmed training. She doesn’t forget as much and she manages the school work much better now”.

This is an important case because it shows that even though a person may be functioning at a high level mentally, it is still possible for them to be constrained by their working memory. It is especially important because this girl was able to overcome a working memory deficit that probably came from her cancer treatment years earlier.

The girl’s mother summed it up well when she said, “Perhaps you can argue that children who already do well aren’t in need of this extra training. In my eyes though, all children should be allowed the opportunity to reach their own potentials – The fact that we had the opportunity to help my daughter with the weakness she had, feels very satisfying”.

Background:

  • Went through cancer treatment at a young age
  • Despite being inattentive in the classroom, received high marks in school
  • Parents and teachers did not see reason to worry
  • Mother read about how cancer treatment can affect concentration
  • Took daughter into get tested – found she had a working memory deficit

Training outcomes:

  • Does not have any problems staying focused in class anymore
  • Is able to function at a much higher level cognitively
  • Was able to  get her working memory capacity to match her other abilities
*Photos above are not of the actual users whose experience we describe – we understand that poor working memory
is often a hidden weakness that impacts people in a very personal way.
Out of respect for their privacy, we have kept the identities of these people anonymous.