Boy on computerWhile ADHD has become a prevalent mental condition in childhood and adulthood, new research promises nonpharmaceutical methods to improve learning ability and social skills.

Professor Torkel Klingberg of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, has develop computerized treatment strategies that specifically refer to the patient’s basic neuropsychological dysfunctions and mechanisms.

Klingberg specializes on a common problem for individuals with ADHD – that of working memory (WM). WM 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 a preliminary study, Kingberg found that training of WM tasks can enhance executive functioning including working memory, response inhibition, and reasoning in children with ADHD (2002).

Follow-up research used a randomized, controlled, double-blind trial to investigate the effect of improving working memory by computerized, systematic practice of WM tasks.

The trial included 53 children with ADHD and revealed a significant treatment effect both at intervention and follow-up (Klingberg et al., 2005).

The method evaluated in this study differs from that of previous ones in that it focuses entirely on training WM tasks. Moreover, the training is computerized, which makes it possible to automatically and continuously adapt the difficulty level to the performance of the child to optimize the training effect.

Executive functions were measured and ADHD symptoms were rated before, immediately after, and 3 months after intervention.

A significant effect was shown for the span-board task, a visuospatial working memory task, that was not part of the training program, as well as for tasks measuring verbal WM, response inhibition, and complex reasoning.

Moreover, parent ratings demonstrated significant reduction in symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

In summary, Klingberg believes working memory can be improved by training in children with ADHD and could be of clinical use for ameliorating the symptoms in ADHD.

Source: European College of Neuropsychopharmacology