Academic performance improves in children training working memory in school

Peer Reviewed Study Links Improvements in Working Memory Capacity to Gains in Academic Performance among Struggling Students

Published in Developmental Science, UK researchers shed new light on why some children underperform in school, show working memory training delivers lasting results

Naperville, Ill., March 30, 2009—A new research study published in the April 2009 edition of Developmental Science provides new hope to adolescents who struggle in school due to poor working memory. The research shows that through adaptive working memory training, students with low working memory capacity can improve core academic abilities. Working memory represents the brain’s ability to hold and process critical information related to the present moment. It is fundamental for a wide range of cognitive abilities and is a valuable predictor of personal and academic performance.

The study, titled “Adaptive training leads to sustained enhancement of poor working memory in children,” was conducted at the UK’s University of York, by Joni Holmes, Ph.D., Darren Dunning and Susan Gathercole, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and a leading research authority on the role of working memory in learning.

According to the research abstract: “Working memory plays a crucial role in supporting learning, with poor progress in reading and mathematics characterizing children with low memory skills…. Adaptive training that taxed working memory to its limits was associated with substantial and sustained gains in working memory, with age-appropriate levels achieved by the majority of children…. These findings indicate that common impairments in working memory and associated learning difficulties may be overcome with this behavioral treatment.”

The research population comprised 42 young students, all of whom tested in the lowest 15th percentile for working memory capacity. Twenty-two students conducted Cogmed Working Memory Training in school, completing 25 sessions over five to six weeks. A control group numbering 20 students trained using a placebo version of the training program with the same support and supervision.

After training, students who completed the Cogmed program showed significant gains in working memory capacity based on a battery of standardized tests that were not part of the training program. A six-month follow-up revealed improvements in mathematical skills. The students also sustained post-training working memory levels. The placebo condition control group did not show comparable gains.

“This important study presents clear research evidence that Cogmed training can spur significant academic gains,” said Jonas Jendi, Cogmed’s CEO. “We see this consistently in the results of our clients, but this is a major development for the acceptance of our training within the research community.”

The study adds to a growing body of international research showing that Cogmed Working Memory Training can lead to range of lasting improvements for anyone with a working memory impairment, spanning from pre-school children, adolescents, working adults and seniors.

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About Cogmed and Working Memory
Cogmed has made a breakthrough discovery that individuals can train and improve their working memory, a key function of the brain that allows individuals to store information for brief periods of time. Cogmed Working Memory Training helps people with attention problems improve focus. Through a combination of software-based working memory exercises and personal coaching, participants engage in a challenging computer program at home. More than 80 percent of those who have completed Cogmed’s rigorous and rewarding training have demonstrated tangible and lasting improvements. Cogmed’s program has been validated by high-impact research in controlled scientific studies at the Karolinska Institute, a world-renowned medical university based in Stockholm, Sweden. A leader in the emerging field of neurotechnology, Cogmed was founded in 2001 and is headquartered in Naperville, Ill. Cogmed’s services are provided in North America by a growing network of more than 100 expert practices around the U.S and Canada.