The efficacy of a working memory training, pharmacotherapy, or a combination of these treatments for children with ADHD

Institution: RIAGG Maastricht

Investigator(s): Professor Peter Muris

Program: Cogmed RM

Background & Aim: Currently, the first treatment of choice for children with ADHD is pharmacotherapy by means of psychostimulant medication such as methylphenidate (Swanson, Burnett, Christian, & Wigal, 1995). This type of intervention results in a clear reduction of the core symptoms of the disorder (attention-deficit, hyperactivity, and impulsivity; see also Muris, Vaesen, Roodenrijs, & Kelgtermans, 2001). However, in clinical practice, there is a considerable proportion of parents who don’t like the idea of their child being treated by drugs, and for this reason reject treatment of ADHD by means of pharmacotherapy (e.g., Gau et al., 2006). As such non-pharmacological interventions for children with ADHD are urgently needed.

The Cogmed program is a good example of such a non-pharmacological intervention: in 20-25 daily sessions children receive a computerized training that aims at improving the supposed underlying defect of ADHD, namely a deficient working memory. For clinical practice, it would be highly relevant to make a direct comparison of the effects of medication (methylphenidate) and working memory (Cogmed) training in the treatment of children with ADHD. Therefore, in this study, children with ADHD will be randomly assigned to three treatment conditions: (1) methylphenidate, (2) a Cogmed training, or (3) a combination of methylphenidate and Cogmed training. Before and after treatment and at a follow-up after 6 months, assessments will be carried out to measure children’s (a) working memory performance, (b) functioning of attention, (c) clinical symptoms of ADHD, and (d) co-morbid psychopathological symptoms.

Population & Sample Size: N = 90 children with ADHD (including co-morbid disorders), ages 7 – 16 years

Design: Randomized, Controlled, Test-retest, 6 Month Follow Up