Training of working memory in children with ADHD

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2002 Sep;24(6):781-91. doi: 10.1076/jcen.24.6.781.8395.


Working memory (WM) capacity is the ability to retain and manipulate information during a short period of time. This ability underlies complex reasoning and has generally been regarded as a fixed trait of the individual. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) represent one group of subjects with a WM deficit, attributed to an impairment of the frontal lobe. In the present study, we used a new training paradigm with intensive and adaptive training of WM tasks and evaluated the effect of training with a double blind, placebo controlled design. Training significantly enhanced performance on the trained WM tasks. More importantly, the training significantly improved performance on a nontrained visuo-spatial WM task and on Raven's Progressive Matrices, which is a nonverbal complex reasoning task. In addition, motor activity--as measured by the number of head movements during a computerized test--was significantly reduced in the treatment group. A second experiment showed that similar training-induced improvements on cognitive tasks are also possible in young adults without ADHD. These results demonstrate that performance on WM tasks can be significantly improved by training, and that the training effect also generalizes to nontrained tasks requiring WM. Training improved performance on tasks related to prefrontal functioning and had also a significant effect on motor activity in children with ADHD. The results thus suggest that WM training potentially could be of clinical use for ameliorating the symptoms in ADHD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome