Cogmed Working Memory Training: Does it Actually Work? The Debate Continues…

A target article in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition concludes that evidence does not support the claims of Cogmed Working Memory Training. Additional experts weigh in with commentary papers in response.



San Diego, CA, September 27, 2012 – Helping children achieve their full potential in school is of great concern to everyone, and a number of commercial products have been developed to try and achieve this goal. The Cogmed Working Memory Training program ( http://www.cogmed.com/) is such an example and is marketed to schools and parents of children with attention problems caused by poor working memory. But, does the program actually work? The target article in the September issue ofJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (JARMAC) calls into question Cogmed’s claims of improving working memory and addressing underachievement due to working memory constraints.

The target article authors Zach Shipstead, Kenny L. Hicks, Randall W. Engle, all from the Georgia Institute of Technology, review the research that is used to back up the claims of Cogmed. They argue that many of the problem-solving or training tasks are not related to working memory, many of the attention tasks are unrelated to problems such as ADHD, and that there is limited transfer to real-life manifestations of inattentive behavior. They conclude succinctly: “The only unequivocal statement that can be made is that Cogmed will improve performance on tasks that resemble Cogmed training.”

“People deserve to hear both sides of the story before they invest money in products like Cogmed,” says lead author Zach Shipstead.

Not all researchers agree with the arguments of Shipstead et al. For instance, in one of the commentaries in reply, Torkel Klingberg of the Karolinska Instituet in Sweden states that “Shipstead et al criticizes these studies with three different arguments: […] None of these arguments holds.”

Two commentary authors, Charles Hulme and Monica Melby-Lervåg, who have previously questioned the evidence for Cogmed in a 2012 meta-analysis, and whose claims Cogmed directly address on their website, are firmly in support of the target article, and provide further meta-analysis in support of their shared conclusions with Shipstead et al.

“Having this debate in a scholarly journal is important because it provides scientists and the public with a more nuanced version of the truth, which percolates out of competing, evidence-based arguments,” says Ronald Fisher, Editor-in-Chief of JARMAC, and professor of psychology at Florida International University.

The target article is “Cogmed working memory training: Does the evidence support the claims?” by Zach Shipstead, Kenny L. Hicks, Randall W. Engle, [ http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jarmac.2012.06.003]. It appears in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Volume 1, Issue 3 (September 2012), published by Elsevier on behalf of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.

The commentaries on the target article follow in the same issue  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/22113681/1/3
 

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Notes for editors
Full text of the articles are available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact newsroom@elsevier.com ; or Linda Henkel at +1 203 254 4000 (ext. 3269) or lhenkel@fairfield.edu. Journalists wishing to interview the target article authors may contact Randall Engle at randall.engle@gatech.edu.

About the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
The Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (JARMAC) is an official journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition ( www.sarmac.org, SARMAC). It publishes innovative, creative empirical research targeting the overlap between cognitive theory and real-world application. Its articles examine any cognitive process (e.g. memory, attention, decision-making, problem-solving, perception, mental representation, etc.) applied across many applied domains (e.g., education, health, aging, law, security, athletics, transportation, business, military, etc.). The ultimate goal of this unique journal is to reach not only psychological scientists working in this field and allied areas but also professionals and practitioners who seek to understand, apply, and benefit from research on memory and cognition. Therefore, each empirical article includes a section clearly describing the practical applications of the research.

About SARMAC
The Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition is a non-profit professional organization that fosters applied research in memory and cognition. SARMAC primarily aims to promote the communication of high-quality research within and between the applied and basic research communities, and to other interested people and groups. The Society was founded in 1994 at the Third Practical Aspects of Memory Conference held at the University of Maryland. Every two years, it showcases the latest work in a wide and varied program at an international conference.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The company works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including  The Lancet and  Cell, and close to 20,000 book titles, including major reference works from Mosby and Saunders. Elsevier’s online solutions include  ScienceDirect Scopus Reaxys ClinicalKey and  Mosby’s Nursing Suite, which enhance the productivity of science and health professionals, and the  SciVal suite and  MEDai’s Pinpoint Review, which help research and health care institutions deliver better outcomes more cost-effectively.

A global business headquartered in Amsterdam,  Elsevier employs 7,000 people worldwide. The company is part of  Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world-leading publisher and information provider, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence,and ClinicalKey—and publishes over 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world leading provider of professional information solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal and Risk and Business sectors, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

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