Component analysis of verbal versus spatial working memory training in adolescents with ADHD: A randomized, controlled trial

Institution: Notre Dame

Title: Component analysis of verbal versus spatial working memory training in adolescents with ADHD: A randomized, controlled trial

Researcher(s): Gibson BS, Gondoli DM, Johnson AC, Steeger CM, Dobrzenski BA, Morrissey RA

Program: Cogmed RM

Published: Child Neuropsychology, March 2011

In a 2010 study, Gibson et al. investigated the utility of Unsworth and Engle’s dual-component model (2007) as a theoretical basis for the WM capacity differences in individuals with and without ADHD. Results from Gibson et al. (2010) suggested that maintenance of information in primary memory (PM) was largely intact in ADHD individuals and that secondary memory (SM) was the deficient WM structure in ADHD. Stemming from this 2010 study, Gibson et al. (2011) questioned whether Cogmed Working Memory Training was effectively training PM or SM or both in ADHD individuals. These researchers proposed that the Cogmed RM program, consisting of simple span tasks, was training only the PM component of working memory. Instead, complex tasks would be necessary to train the SM structure because these exercises force all but the last item of a span to be shifted from PM to SM and thus, the participant would be attempting to extract information from SM during training. Gibson et al. (2011) further reasoned that spatial simple span tasks may function like complex span tasks and may be more appropriate for training the SM component than verbal simple span tasks. Thus, one group of ADHD individuals trained with a spatial task-only version of Cogmed RM and another group of ADHD individuals with a verbal task-only version of Cogmed RM.

Gibson et al. (2011) found that when tested with immediate-free-recall tasks after training that there was no significant difference between the verbal and visuospatial Cogmed training groups. Participants in both groups recalled a greater number of items from PM post-intervention but, there was no improvement post-intervention in number of items recalled from SM. Based on these findings, Gibson et al., (2011) concluded that the spatial and verbal exercises in Cogmed are equally effective and that these simple span exercises primarily train the PM component of WM rather than the SM component. These researchers suggested that Cogmed should incorporate complex span tasks so to increase the likeliness that items to-be-remembered are lost from PM and thus, the user must try and extract these items from SM during training.

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