A Review of Brain Training for ADHD

Humans Are Better than Computers at Delivering Brain Training to Children with ADHD
Researchers Explain How Clinician-Delivered Brain Training is More Beneficial than Computer Brain Games for Remediating Multiple Cognitive and Social-Emotional Struggles Frequently Associated with ADHD

July 29, 2019 – Not only do children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) frequently struggle with memory and speed of information processing, they also navigate deficits in social cognition and self-esteem. Mainstream approaches to treating ADHD such as central nervous system stimulants and behavioral therapy do not adequately address these struggles. Although several companies market computerized brain training software for children with ADHD, these games also fall short in remediating the multiple cognitive and emotional deficits found in ADHD.

In a review of ADHD intervention research published in the latest issue of the Journal of Mental Health and Clinical Psychology, we suggest that humans—not computers—are best suited for delivering brain training to children diagnosed with ADHD.  The review outlines the benefits of working one-on-one with a human brain trainer, including increasing treatment compliance and motivation, reducing attrition, and making the leap from improvements on the trained tasks to transfer effects–or “real life” benefits outside the training environment. A clinician can provide instant and specific feedback, adapt the training tasks during the session, add complexity and intensity to the tasks, and help the client apply new skills to the outside world.

The review was conducted by educational psychologist Amy Lawson Moore, PhD from Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research and clinical neuroscientist Christina Ledbetter, PhD from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center who suggest that clinicians need to rethink their targets of treatment in this population. “ADHD is much more than a disorder of attention,” says Moore. “Children with ADHD typically have weaknesses in working memory, long-term memory, and processing speed as well as deficits in social cognition, self-esteem, and motivation. Therefore, it is critical that an intervention targets these multiple areas. We haven’t yet met a computer that can accomplish that. A human clinician, however, can.”

The researchers reviewed existing research on several computer-based brain training programs, finding shortfalls with each of them. They suggest adoption of a clinician-delivered brain training methodology for children with ADHD and highlight the research on LearningRx as an example of one program that targets not only the complex cognitive deficits in ADHD but also the social-emotional struggles frequently associated with ADHD in children. The full article, entitled “The Promise of Clinician-Delivered Cognitive Training for Children Diagnosed with ADHD” can be found at https://www.mentalhealthjournal.org/articles/the-promise-of-cliniciandelivered-cognitive-training-for-children-diagnosed-with-adhd.html.

Moore and Ledbetter have published multiple papers on clinician-delivered cognitive training, and have found that human delivery, complexity, and intensity are the keys to effective brain training, particularly with the ADHD population. “We have to intensely train a variety of cognitive skills—not just attention—if we want the intervention to effectively impact the child’s thinking, learning, and behavior,” says Ledbetter. “And we have to acknowledge the key role of the clinician in the training paradigm, particularly his or her impact on motivation and self-efficacy.” Their associated work on brain training can be found at https://www.gibsonresearchinstitute.org/research-areas/research-summaries/.