Analyzing working memory and ADHD
ADHD is a commonly prescribed disorder among many young children. People who have attention deficit hyperactivity-disorder have an inability to pay attention and difficulty in controlling behavior. For many years, the main culprit in ADHD was the inability to pay attention. However, research indicates a close link between working memory and ADHD. ADHD negatively affects executive functions in children. Executive functions include a set of cognitive functions such as attention control, inhibition control, cognitive flexibility, problem solving, and reasoning. Children with ADHD will perform poorly in any task that requires them to use executive functions (Rappley, 2005). This paper focuses on the relationship between ADHD and one of the executive functions, working memory, and the potential of working memory treatment to cure ADHD.
Working memory is one of the essential executive functions. Working memory is a cognitive process with limited capacity that has processing, transient holding, and manipulation of information responsibilities. In human beings, working memory is an important part of reasoning, behavior, and decision-making. Thus, it is evident that deficiencies in working memory can seriously hamper an individual's ability to reason and behave normally (Morrison & Chein, 2011). It is important to note that there is a distinction between working memory and short-term memory. Working memory is a sort of temporary buffer that assists in the processing and manipulation of stored information while short-term memory is short-term storage of information not involved in manipulation of information.
The common notion among working memory researchers is that there is limited working memory capacity in the brain. The foremost working memory expert, Miller, suggested that the information storage capacity of working memory is only seven simultaneous elements; the seven elements can be words, letters, digits, or any other units (Morrison & Chein, 2011). However, recent research indicates that the “storage capacity” of working memory is dynamic across a wide range of people and situations. Research shows that working memory training does not improve working memory capacity, but the ability to retrieve and transfer information from long-term memory (Morrison & Chein, 2011). Research also indicates that working memory improves, as people grow older.
Other recent developments in the field of working memory are different strategies to measure the capacity of working memory in individuals. One of the most commonly used strategies by researchers is the dual task paradigm; as the name indicates, the test consists of a dual set of activities. One of the activities measures an individual’s memory span while another set of activities measures an individual’s concurrent processing ability. A typical dual task paradigm test involves the researcher reading a number of sentences to the subject and instructing the subject to remember the last word of every sentence; the subject then recites the last words in their correct order (Morrison & Chein, 2011).
Working memory affects attention, and one of the main symptoms of ADHD patients is a chronic lack of attention (Rappley, 2005). Research shows that people who do poorly in working memory tests also have problems controlling attention. In almost all cases where children have ADHD, the children also have working memory problems. The correlation between working memory and ADHD can be moderate to severe. The link between working memory and ADHD suggests that it is possible to mitigate some of the effects of ADHD using working memory training; this is a possibility that researchers are actively exploring and holds promise in generating further insights on ADHD (Rapport, Kofler, Raiker, & Bolden, 2016).
Working memory training are activities intended to improve an individual’s working memory capacity. Research indicates that working memory is an essential part of an individual's IQ, mental health, and intellectual faculty. As such, there is great interest in working memory exercises as a way of improving one’s information processing capabilities. It is possible, to improve intelligence and mitigate the impact of ADHD using working memory training (Morrison & Chein, 2011). Research indicates that working memory training produces short-term improvements in attention control among children who have ADHD. However, continuous training is necessary for the gains to persist.
Working memory training usually takes place on a computer. Working memory training demands that the trainee encodes information, maintain, manipulate, control and shift attention (Klingberg, Olesen, Gustafsson, Fernell, & Westerberg, 2005). An example of a working memory task involves individuals recalling numbers presented on the screen in reverse order. The computers used to perform the training automatically adjust the difficulty to allow continuous learning and improvement.
Much research conducted at the turn of the century claimed that working memory training is a viable strategy to deal with the attention limitations of ADHD and other disorders that affect attention. The research also showed a positive correlation between working memory and intelligence improvements. Later analysis of the turn of the century studies conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that the results of the previous studies were inconsistent because of inaccuracies and inefficiencies in measuring working memory and attention (Rapport, Kofler, Raiker, & Bolden, 2016).
Working memory treatment has the potential to mitigate the effects of ADHD. However, the recorded improvements vary and in many cases, the improvements are only short term, and consistent training is necessary for improvements that are more permanent.
Stimulants work by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters in the brain to improve brain functions. In people who have ADHD, neurons prematurely absorb neurotransmitters limiting the ability of brain neuron to communicate. Stimulant medication mitigates the premature absorbing of stimulant by encouraging the production of more neurotransmitters and making the brain function more efficiently (Rappley, 2005).
Klingberg, Olesen, Gustafsson, Fernell, & Westerberg. (2005). Computerized training of working memory in children with ADHD-a randomized, controlled trial. Ournal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 177-186.
Morrison, & Chein. (2011). Does working memory training work? The promise and challenges of enhancing cognition by training working memory. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 46-60.
Rappley. (2005). Attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder. New England Journal of Medicine, 165-173.
Rapport, Kofler, Raiker, & Bolden. (2016). ADHD and working memory. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(2).