Jul | 2012
Journal of Neurotherapeutics study reports positive effects of non-medication based ADHD treatment
The peer-reviewed journal Neurotherapeutics (a high impact publication rated as a 6.0 by the scientific community) has now published a study analyzing a new non-medication treatment for ADHD called Cogmed. Currently, there are over 50 studies assessing Cogmed since it appears to hold promise as a way to help people focus using a computer game designed by neuroscientists in Sweden.
This study of a group of children with ADHD was published online on July 3, 2012. The work was done by Drs. Chloe Green and Julie Schweitzer and their team at the Mind Institute at the University of California in Davis. This study adds significantly to the Cogmed literature by using a different primary outcome measure: off-task behavior during academic task performance, and an objective and well established test in ADHD research. Thue study’s design (randomized, double-blind, and placebo controlled) uses one of the strongest designs available in social science to discover if real effects are present.
The study’s Abstract is below, followed by an excerpt from the Discussion section. A full reading of the article is available online.
Computerized working memory and executive function training programs designed to target specific impairments in executive functioning are becoming increasingly available, yet how well these programs generalize to improve functional deficits in disorders, such as attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), beyond the training context is not well-established. The aim of this study was to examine the extent to which working memory (WM) training in children with ADHD would diminish a core dysfunctional behavior associated with the disorder, “off- task” behavior during academic task performance. The effect of computerized WM training (adaptive) was compared to a placebo condition (non-adaptive) in a randomized, double- blind, placebo-controlled design in 26 children (18 males; age, 7 to 14 years old) diagnosed with ADHD. Participants completed the training in approximately 25 sessions. The Restricted Academic Situations Task (RAST) observational system was used to assess aspects of off-task behavior during the completion of an academic task. Traditional measures of ADHD symptoms (Conners’ Parent Rating Scale) and WM ability (standardized WM tests) were also collected. WM training led to significant reductions in off-task ADHD- associated behavior on the RAST system and improvement on WM tests. There were no significant differences between groups in improvement on parent rating scales. Findings lend insight into the generalizability of the effects of WM training and the relation between deficits in WM and off-task behavioral components of ADHD. These preliminary data suggest WM training may provide a mechanism for indirectly altering academic performance in children with ADHD.
This placebo-controlled, randomized, and double-blind study of WM training for children with ADHD is the first, to our knowledge, that demonstrates improved performance in an ecologically valid laboratory measure of observable ADHD-associated behaviors. Our primary measure (i.e., the RAST) quantifies subtle improvements in performance. Training had the greatest effect on the category in which the highest rate of behavior occurred, specifically, the off- task category, which is measured by whether the child looks away from the worksheets. This measure might be most related to attention. The influence of training on these categories, particularly the off-task category, is significant because inattention is often considered to be a primary issue in both the inattentive and combined subtypes of ADHD, and is related to academic functioning.
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Meet the Behavioral Science Expert:Dr. Thomas Brunner is a Tucson, Arizona based behavioral scientist who serves in diverse roles including counselor, therapist, and organizational consultant. He is a thought leader and innovator in his field and was awarded the Early Career Psychologist Award by the Arizona Psychological Foundation. He is the senior author of a behavioral science tool now adapted into 7 languages around the world. He is the senior author of numerous book chapters/scientific journal articles, and is a speaker at local and national conferences. As a PhD Board Licensed Psychologist, Dr. Brunner has served as an expert witness in the legal arena and has been consulted by local and nationwide organizations such as the Discovery Channel. Dr. Brunner’s “Good to Great” blog has gone viral and is spreading like wildfire! Dr. Brunner is the founder of a non-profit organization which is designed to help youth develop leadership character (Learn More). If you want to read his bio, click here, see his resume, click here or to review his recent blogs, click here.