Computer-based training helps improve poor working memory


Children or adults with attention deficits, stroke victims or just memory loss associated with getting older – help is at hand in the form of computer-based training to improve poor working memory

Oliver is ten years old and has been diagnosed with AD/HD, or attention deficit disorder. He has trouble concentrating and is easily forgetful. Yet after following memory training developed by Swedish neuro-scientists for just five weeks, his teacher reports “amazing results”, adding: “This boy would never finish a piece of work, yet now he is able to sit and focus his mind through to completion.” Oliver’s parents say that his previously disruptive behavior has greatly improved.

Oliver’s saviour was a combination of cognitive neuroscience combined with computer game design known as Cogmed, developed at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in 2000. With serious brain research supporting the results, the method is now widely used across the world with Cogmed explaining the logic behind it as “very much like in the case of the fitness machines used for building muscle strength in a gym. Cogmed is highly focused, cognitive weightlifting.”


Adults are also benefitting from the programme; memory fades with age and can be enhanced by regular training. Anna, in her 50s said she was thrilled with the outcome: “It has given me my mental energy back.”

A clinical and child psychologist for more than 30 years, Rosamund Reuter is a strong advocate of Cogmed and has been offering the training to clients in Brussels for the past three years. “I can see that over and above the improvements in concentration and working memory, it improves children’s mental stamina,” says Reuter. “Working memory is the ability to hold pieces of information in our heads and we use this in our thinking. We need it for mental arithmetic, for remembering what we just read in a text,” she explains. Clients are better able to stay focused, ignore distractions, plan ahead, remember instructions, and start and finish tasks.

The programme – five weeks long with five sessions a week combined with close personal professional support – is rigorous and designed to improve working memory through intensive and systematic training. Done on a computer at home, in school, or at work, each session targets the different aspects of working memory. The main school-age programme is based on a friendly robot and a number of visual, auditive and spatial memory exercises stimulate the functions of the brain that deal with memory.


“Children learn to stay focused, to try again when they fail,” says Reuter. “The exercises are fun to do and it gives them confidence,”she says, adding that no-one has ever abandoned the course, a fact she attributes to the coaching system where the child receives weekly coaching telephone calls with parents offering supportive rewards for effort. Teenagers especially benefit, says Reuter, particularly when they lose confidence in themselves. “They are able to report exactly how they feel it is making a difference and enjoy the challenges of trying to remember just one or two more elements in each exercise.”

Results are synchronized daily with a central computer in Sweden so that the child, coach and parents are able to review the scores and chart progress. Adult training is based on the same principles and they also receive integral personal coaching and support.

Long-term studies conducted by Tracy Alloway of the University of Stirling and published by the British Psychological Society show “verbal working memory at age five was the strongest predictor of learning outcomes at age 11 – outweighing the IQ factor.” Cogmed programmes have now been developed for 4-6 year olds to help children who show early signs of attention deficits.


For more information visit or contact Rosamund Reuter, M.Sc., Clinical & Child Psychologist T.+32(0)2 503 06 42