What is it?
Cogmed is a working-memory training software program commonly used as a complementary therapy for ADHD. Working memory helps individuals remember instructions, solve problems, control impulses, and focus attention. Cogmed is designed to build up that working memory muscle in anyone who struggles to remember information or hold a task in mind.
How does Cogmed work?
Cogmed is a computer program comprising 25 online training sessions, each one 10 to 45 minutes long. Users are advised to complete five sessions each week at home, school, work, or another comfortable location.
First, a Cogmed provider interviews each patient to determine whether training might be beneficial. Then, a Cogmed coach facilitates the first online session, and calls weekly to discuss the patient’s progress, to increase motivation, and to give feedback. Cogmed coaches and trainees may review each session’s results online.
In each session, the logged-in player completes a series of video-game-like exercises – such as remembering and repeating the order in which a panel of lights or a field of asteroids is illuminated. The system responds to right and wrong answers. Correct choices trigger an increase in difficulty designed to push the limits of working memory. Incorrect inputs cause the difficulty to decrease so players don’t become frustrated. Exercises test both visual and verbal working memory. In the course of each session, players complete approximately eight different exercises.
When training is complete, the coach provides feedback in a wrap-up session, and then follows up after six months to assess results.
Who is Cogmed for?
Cogmed offers three products:
- Cogmed JM – for pre-schoolers, ages 4-6 (10- to 15-minute sessions)
- Cogmed RM – for school-age kids, ages 7 and up (30- to 45-minute sessions)
- Cogmed QM – for adults
How much does it cost?
The fee for Cogmed Working Memory Training varies by location. It ranges in price from $1,500 to $2,000, and is not covered by many medical insurance plans.
What studies have been done on Cogmed?
On its website, Cogmed references more than 55 peer-reviewed studies in scientific journals that suggest Cogmed’s intensive, five-week training may create sustained improvements in capacity for focus in people with ADHD, and even help improve memory and the development of self-control.
A 2005 study developed by Cogmed and the Karolinska institute of Sweden found that symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity were reduced after five weeks of regular Cogmed use, and even noted changes in the brain. In addition, a small 2016 study of 99 children published online in SciRes said, “Our results suggest that Cogmed© WM training could be an effective training program for children with neurodevelopmental problems, with the best results for children with ADHD or learning problems. These findings add to the accumulating evidence that [Cogmed© Working Memory] training may indeed reduce attention and memory problems, learning difficulties and academic achievement problems, and suggest plasticity of the brain in children with neurodevelopmental problems across a wide age range.”
However, other independent reviewers came to different conclusions: Namely, that Cogmed is not effective.
One group of researchers concluded, in short, that “the claims made by Cogmed are largely unsubstantiated” and that “the only unequivocal statement that can be made is that Cogmed will improve performance in tasks that resemble Cogmed training.”
Another group gathered and evaluated all of the research that various brain training programs – including Cogmed – referenced on their websites. It found that, “The studies conducted to date do not provide support for generalized training gains for key outcomes such as executive functions, learning, or the inattentive symptoms of ADHD.”
“[Brain-training companies] claim to grow the brain compared to doing nothing, but they don’t show that brain training is better than just doing healthy things,” says Joel Nigg Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and a professor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at OHSU. “Are you better off spending half an hour doing brain training, or are you better off spending a half hour taking a walk?” On this question, the scientific community is split – and still collecting data.
Where can I learn more?
Learn more at www.cogmed.com.
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