What Are the Different Types of Working Memory Training?

B. Miller

People need a good working memory in order to be able to concentrate on tasks, learn new things, and quickly recall information. Many people find that their working memory starts to slip over the years, however, or that their attention span is shorter; people who have learning disabilities or those diagnosed with attention deficit disorders (ADD or ADHD) also tend to struggle with their working memory. Various types of working memory training, generally performed on a computer, aim to help people improve and recover their abilities. Working memory training is often presented as a game, in which participants are tasked with remembering where they last saw an image, or recalling patterns in certain letters and numbers shown on the screen.

Many people find that their working memory starts to slip over the years.
Many people find that their working memory starts to slip over the years.

Over time, some researchers have concluded that working memory training can make a big difference in improving working memory, and in teaching an individual to concentrate better on the task at hand. For students struggling in school, this can make all the difference. In general, these types of training exercises will need to take place over at least a few weeks to a few months. Many people then decide to make them a regular habit in order to keep the brain and memory sharp throughout life, since memory often suffers with age.

Almost all types of working memory training are now conducted on a computer. One of the most common is a type of memory "card" game in which participants must flip over individual cards, remember the image they see, and then recall where it was when they see its match. Another very common working memory training exercise is remembering a sequence of letters and numbers shown for just a few moments. A more advanced exercise involves writing these sequences backward. Many different versions of similar memory puzzles are used. These tasks are not designed to be complex; keeping them simple ensures that the individual is actually using his or her working memory to complete the task.

Some people combine this type of hands-on working memory training with other, alternative ideas for boosting brainpower. For instance, older people often find that meditation is a great way to teach themselves to focus their mind and improve their memories. In addition, getting regular exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, and also improves concentration and memory abilities, as well as overall health. With practice and some lifestyle adjustments, it is entirely possible to improve working memory and/or lessen the symptoms of ADD or ADHD.

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