Science based training casts broader net

A Q&A with Dr. Paul White

Paul White, PhD, is the founder and director of Working Memory Solutions, based in Wichita, Kansas. He has been testing and evaluating individuals with learning difficulties, ADHD, and dyslexia for more than 20 years. Having served on the faculties of three universities, Dr. White also helps families and businesses address the relevant family and relational issues as they pass ownership down to the next generation.

Brain fitness is an issue of growing importance to the public. How would you characterize the progress that has been made?
It’s certainly an exciting time. We’ve seen a lot of research recently that indicates that cognitive training – particularly working memory training – has real potential to deliver cognitive improvements. Judging from the body of research, I think we may be at the epicenter of an enormous opportunity to help a range of people and alter the way we understand the human brain, its abilities and limitations.

Everyday, more cognitive training programs become available. How do you keep track of them all?
I view it as part of my job to review the treatment alternatives on the market and help people understand various interventions to make informed decisions. There are a lot of programs out there right now. It’s easy to become numb because too often the claims aren’t backed by research. Using the term “inspired by science” really means nothing. Anecdotes and paying for placements in journals is not a substitute for peer reviewed research. When I first came across Cogmed I was very impressed by the research. And when I saw the names of institutions who are conducting research with Cogmed, like Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Notre Dame, Ohio State and NYU – I thought “Wow, this is different – this is significant.”

What has your experience been since joining the Cogmed network earlier this year?
I am incredibly impressed with Cogmed as an organization. They are easy to work with, very professional and I appreciate that they are careful about what they say. They don’t make outlandish claims – it’s all based on solid research. The professional network of Cogmed Qualified Practices is superb. It’s great to see that so many leading experts on attention issues are active members of the Cogmed network. The collaborative environment that Cogmed has created is quite unique.

Where do you see the most potential for Cogmed Working Memory Training in the future?
I have two children with ADHD, so I certainly understand the striking benefits that Cogmed Working Memory Training can deliver to kids and adults who struggle with attention deficits.

I also see a great opportunity to deliver the benefits of Cogmed Working Memory Training to a broader population. We are currently working with high school, college and graduate level students who are preparing for standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, LSAT, MCAT and GMAT. These tests demand strong working memory and a boost in working memory could mean a higher score. Higher scores translate to more scholarship money or admittance into a more competitive program. There is a good deal at stake and much to gain.

Another opportunity for Cogmed Working Memory Training is to counter the decline in working memory due to natural aging. We have a huge population of baby boomers who are seeing their working memory slip everyday. There is also an opportunity to use Cogmed Working Memory Training in the military. Many of the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan today have experience traumatic brain injury and, most probably, could benefit greatly from training.