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Memory Practice Does Not Help ADHD or Improve IQ

Memory Practice Does Not Help ADHD or Improve IQMemory training does not appear to be helpful for children suffering from dyslexia or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders.

Researchers also determined memory practice does not appear to provide significant benefit to healthy adults who want to improve school performance or enhance their cognitive skills.

“The success of working memory training programs is often based on the idea that you can train your brain to perform better, using repetitive memory trials, much like lifting weights builds muscle mass,” said the study’s lead author, Monica Melby-Lervåg, Ph.D., of the University of Oslo.

“However, this analysis shows that simply loading up the brain with training exercises will not lead to better performance outside of the tasks presented within these tests.”

The study is found online in the journal Developmental Psychology.

Working memory enables people to complete tasks at hand by allowing the brain to retain pertinent information temporarily. Activities to train working memory generally involve trying to get people to remember information presented to them while they are performing distracting activities.

For example, participants may be presented with a series of numbers one at a time on a computer screen. The computer presents a new digit and then prompts participants to recall the number immediately preceding. More difficult versions might ask participants to recall what number appeared two, three or four digits ago.

In the current review, researchers from the University of Oslo and University College London examined 23 peer-reviewed studies with 30 different comparisons of groups that met their criteria.

The studies were randomized controlled trials or experiments that involved some sort of working memory treatment and a control group. The studies involved a variety of participants including young children, children with cognitive impairments, such as ADHD, and healthy adults. Most of the studies had been published within the last 10 years.

Comparing and consolidating multiple studies in the form of a meta-analysis improves generalizability of the research, helping to translate research findings into practical advice.

Researchers determined that working memory training improved performance on tasks related to the training itself, but did not have an impact on more general cognitive performance such as verbal skills, attention, reading or arithmetic.

“In other words, the training may help you improve your short-term memory when it’s related to the task implemented in training, but it won’t improve reading difficulties or help you pay more attention in school,” said Melby-Lervåg.

The findings cast a dark shadow on the commercial, computer-based working memory training programs that conceptually have been developed to benefit students suffering from ADHD, dyslexia, language disorders, poor academic performance or other issues.

Some of the software claim to boost people’s IQs. These programs are widely used around the world in schools and clinics, and most involve tasks in which participants are given many memory tests that are designed to be challenging, the study said.

“In the light of such evidence, it seems very difficult to justify the use of working memory training programs in relation to the treatment of reading and language disorders,” said Melby-Lervåg.

“Our findings also cast strong doubt on claims that working memory training is effective in improving cognitive ability and scholastic attainment.”

Source: American Psychological Association

Memory mind illustration photo by shutterstock.

Memory Practice Does Not Help ADHD or Improve IQ

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Memory Practice Does Not Help ADHD or Improve IQ. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 1 Jun 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.