“Cogmed working memory training should not be considered a viable treatment option for ADHD”

“Cogmed working memory training should not be considered a viable treatment for children with ADHD”.

The title of this article is a direct quote from a recent study analyzing the effectiveness of the computer-based working memory training program for children with ADHD. The purpose of this study was to replicate previous studies of working memory training using more rigorous methodology and more psychiatrically and socioeconomically diverse sample of children with ADHD. The researchers did this by evaluating the efficacy of working memory training compared to a well-controlled placebo version of memory training in a sample of school-age children with ADHD using various outcomes (working memory, parent and teacher rated ADHD symptoms, objective measures of attention, activity level and impulsivity, and academic achievement).
This research backed up some previous results suggesting that cognitive working memory training resulted in improvements in the ADHD children’s verbal and nonverbal working memory. However, on all other measures of outcome (including parent and teacher rated ADHD symptoms, objective measures of inattention, activity and impulsivity, and academic achievement) “cog med working memory training did not result in significantly greater improvements” in ADHD children’s functioning.

In summary it seems that working memory training programs can result of some changes in the construct that they are training (working memory) but in all other standard measures of functioning that we use for ADHD children there are not significant positive changes attributable to the program as the authors and vendors of these programs sometimes claim. What this tells us is that working memory training programs can transfer effects to specific tasks such as those involved with working memory but do not result in a generalization of training to more complex areas that are usually impaired with ADHD children. Hence the authors of this very well-controlled studies conclusion that “cog med working memory training should not be considered a viable treatment for children with ADHD.
After reviewing this latest research project and many others in the past I’m of the opinion that it’s fairly safe to conclude that these sort of “quick fix” programs in and of themselves are not the answer for treating the complex cognitive and behavioral difficulties associated with ADHD. However, these programs may at some point be a good individual component of an overall treatment plan that involves more conventional interventions.

Source: Chacko, A. and colleagues; A randomized clinical trial Cog Med working memory training in school-age children with ADHD: a replication in a diverse sample using a control condition. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry volume 55, number three, March 2014.