Improving Working Memory in Children with Epilepsy

Working memory is the ability to briefly hold information in your mind and work with it - such as remembering someone's phone number while you look for a piece of paper to write it down. Children with epilepsy often experience problems with working memory, which can have an impact on learning, reasoning and attention.

In a recently published study, Dr. Elizabeth Kerr at the Hospital for Sick Children looked at whether a computer-based training tool, called CogMed, could improve the working memory of children with epilepsy. Children either engaged in CogMed's game-like activities that adjusted to their daily abilities or were placed on a waiting list to complete the training. Children engaged in the CogMed training showed improvements in working memory both as a group and individually.

Because results have been promising, Dr. Kerr expanded the study to see whether improvements in working memory are still present several months later. It was concluded that working memory training is possibly effective in improving related skills which are maintained for 3 months in children with active epilepsy.

Most skills (e.g., math) require not only working memory but other processes as well. Dr. Kerr and Dr. Widjaja have recruited and are in the process on analysing whether any improvements in working memory are related to positive changes in everyday behaviours (e.g. following instructions) and within the brain itself using advanced brain imaging. These findings could lead to a new, safe approach to improving a child's working memory and overall quality of life.

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