Working Memory Training in Post-Secondary Students with ADHD: A Randomized Controlled Study

Commentary by Dr. Margaret Weiss*: The gold standard for evaluation of outcome of working memory has to target real life improvement in those areas that are impaired.

Working Memory Training in Post-Secondary Students with ADHD: A Randomized Controlled Study

Mawjee K, Woltering S, Tannock R. PLoS One. 2015 Sep 23;10(9):e0137173

Abstract

Objectives: To determine whether standard-length computerized training enhances working memory (WM), transfers to other cognitive domains and shows sustained effects, when controlling for motivation, engagement, and expectancy.

Methods: 97 post-secondary students (59.8% female) aged 18-35 years with AttentionDeficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, were randomized into standard-length adaptive Cogmed WM training (CWMT; 45-min/session), a shortened-length adaptive version of CWMT (15 min/session) that controlled for motivation, engagement and expectancy of change, or into a no training group (waitlist-control group). All three groups received weekly telephone calls from trained coaches, who supervised the CWMT and were independent from the research team. All were evaluated before and 3 weeks post-training; those in the two CWMT groups were also assessed 3 months post-training. Untrained outcome measures of WM included the WAIS-IV Digit Span (auditory-verbal WM), CANTAB Spatial Span (visual-spatial WM) and WRAML Finger Windows (visual-spatial WM). Transfer-of-training effects included measures of short-term memory, cognitive speed, math and reading fluency, complex reasoning, and ADHD symptoms.

Results: Performance on 5/7 criterion measures indicated that shortened-length CWMT conferred as much benefit on WM performance as did standard-length training, with both CWMT groups improving more than the waitlist-control group. Only 2 of these findings remained robust after correcting for multiple comparisons. Follow-up analyses revealed that post-training improvements on WM performance were maintained for at least three months. There was no evidence of any transfer effects but the standard-length group showed improvement in task-specific strategy use.

Conclusions: This study failed to find robust evidence of benefits of standard-length CWMT for improving WM in college students with ADHD and the overall pattern of findings raise questions about the specificity of training effects.

The Highlighted Commentary can be viewed here.

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