Working Memory Research Update – Dr. Elizabeth Kerr

Working memory is the ability to hold and process information in your mind and then to use that information within a short time frame. For example, recalling each step of a recipe as you cook uses your working memory. Children with epilepsy commonly have problems with working memory, which can stem from epilepsy itself or from long-term use of anti-seizure medications. Working memory problems can have negative impacts on learning, reasoning, memory, attention and quality of life.

To address these concerns - without the use of medications - Dr. Elizabeth Kerr at the Hospital for Sick Children is testing a commercially available computer intervention known as Cogmed for children with epilepsy and working memory problems. The Cogmed RoboMemo program helps to build working memory skills through games that adjust to a child's abilities. Positive feedback, rewards and coaching were included to encourage continued use of the program.

In her 2015 study, Dr. Kerr looked at whether intensive use (5 days a week for 5-7 weeks) of Cogmed could immediately improve the working memory of children with epilepsy. Compared to children on the waiting list, the group that completed Cogmed performed better on new, untrained tasks - such as backwards number recall, counting recall and visual-spatial tests. Based on an additional analysis, it was found that 50% or more of the children who completed Cogmed training displayed improvements in several aspects of their working memory.

In her new publication, Dr. Kerr looks at the effects of Cogmed training 3 months later. In this study, children showed improvements in hearing and vision-based working memory both immediately after Cogmed testing and at 3 month follow-up. Visual attention span was also significantly higher at 3 months when compared to before the Cogmed training. However, Cogmed did not significantly improve visual-verbal working memory or reasoning at 3 months.

Overall, these studies highlight the benefits of Cogmed for hearing and vision-based working memory in children with epilepsy. Although more needs to be done to better understand its effectiveness and benefits in the long-term, these important findings point to a new, non-medical way of improving a child's working memory and overall quality of life.

4 Replies to “Working Memory Research Update – Dr. Elizabeth Kerr”

  1. Hayley Josselsohn

    My 7 year old is ADHD.
    Her working memory is is on the upper range of average in IQ test
    Processing speed below average.
    Is it possible to improve her executive memory and concentration span ? As her working memory seems to be good enough for now.

    Reply

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