The blinking images of a video game offer new hope for children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) , according to a recent study led by Notre Dame psychologist Brad Gibson. The associate professor and his colleagues have confirmed an earlier Swedish study that memory exercises in the form of computer games can mitigate ADHD symptoms in children.
Gibson and his team followed the progress of 12 students age 12 to 14 who had been diagnosed with ADHD as they completed the Cogmed Working Memory Training Program’s video “game” RoboMemo. The program, developed by a Swedish company, challenges students with various visual-spatial and memory games. For instance, a sequence of numbers or images, shaped like floating asteroids or space aliens, are flashed on the screen, and the student must replicate the sequence. As they progress, the sequences become increasingly difficult.
Gibson found that spatial working memory appears to be more critical than verbal working memory in mitigating ADHD symptoms. The ND psychologist theorizes that the lessening of ADHD symptoms results from changes in fluid intelligence, defined as the ability to solve problems or adapt to new situations as they happen.
At the conclusion of the five-week memory training program in which students played the “game” about 30 minutes a day, five days a week, the ND psychologist found that about 75 percent experienced improvement in their ADHD symptoms. Why memory training is more successful for some children than others is a goal of future research.