Putting the training to the test

As medical professionals began to implement the Cogmed training, independent researchers from leading universities took it upon themselves to put the training to the test. Scientists at Notre Dame, Harvard and NYU, initiated research to examine the impact of the training program. Like Klingberg, they concluded that it delivered on its promises, with eighty percent of those trained experiencing tangible benefits in daily life.

Another researcher who chose to evaluate the training was Dr. Susan Gathercole, a world-renowned expert on working memory and head of the psychology department at York University in England. Her highly regarded research on working memory has shed new light on its importance for academic success, but she admits she was skeptical of training. “For many years I believed it simply wasn’t possible to train working memory.”

As a result, part of her research efforts had focused on finding ways to reduce demands in the classroom for students with weak working memory. “We thought we had to bring the environment to the child, rather than work on expanding working memory,” she says.

But having now completed a thorough investigation of the Cogmed program, her views on this matter have changed. “The impact of the Cogmed training program is actually immense,” she says. “We started out from a fairly skeptical basis but our data are very clear: you get major gains with working memory training. In fact, we’ve found that the majority of these kids go from the deficit range to the average or above average range in working memory capacity.”

The results of Gathercole’s study on working memory training were published in Developmental Science in April 2009.