New study examines promising approach to treating attention and working memory difficulties in children – ScienceDaily

An adaptive cognitive training program could help treat attention and working memory difficulties in children with sickle cell disease (SCD), a new study published in Journal of Child Psychology shows.

These neurocognitive difficulties have practical implications for 100,000 people in the United States with SCD, as 20-40% of young people with SCD repeat school and less than half of adults with SCD are employed. Interventions to prevent and treat neurocognitive difficulties caused by SCD have the potential to significantly improve academic outcomes, vocational education, and quality of life.

The study, led by Dr. Steven Hardy, director of psychology and patient care services at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s National Hospital, examined a promising approach using an adaptive cognitive training program (known as Cogmed Training Working Memory Training) that patients complete at home on an iPad.

Using a randomly controlled trial design, children were asked to complete Cogmed’s workouts 3 to 5 times a week for about 30 minutes, until they completed 25 sessions. The Cogmed program includes game-like working memory exercises that adapt to user performance, becoming more demanding over time as performance improves. The team found that patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) who completed cognitive training showed a significant improvement in visual working memory compared to the waiting list group who used Cogmed after the waiting period. The effects of treatment were particularly noticeable in patients who completed a “dose” of 10-session training.

“Patients who completed at least 10 cognitive trainings showed improved visual working memory, verbal short-term memory and fluency in mathematics,” said Dr. Hardy.

SCD increases the risk of neurocognitive difficulties due to cerebrovascular complications (such as open strokes and silent cerebral infarctions) and basic characteristics of the disease (such as chronic anemia). The neurocognitive effects of SCD most commonly include problems with attention, working memory, and other executive functions.

“This study shows that digital working memory training is an effective approach to treating neurocognitive deficits in young people with sickle cell disease,” he added. Hardy. “We also found that the benefits of training extend to tasks that include short-term verbal memory and math performance when patients can stick to the program and attend at least 10 workouts. These benefits could have a real impact on daily life, making it easier to remember and follow school instructions. and at home, organizing tasks or solving math problems that require memorizing information for a shorter period of time. “

To date, there has been little effort to test interventions that address the neurocognitive problems that many individuals with SCD have. These findings indicate that abilities can be altered and that there is a non-pharmacological treatment.

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