ADHD Brains–Working Memory Trumps IQ in School

by TGingras

in brain training

Working memory is more important to academic success than IQ, according to recent research.  Why is that important to ADHD parents and what the heck is working memory anyway?

Working memory is the ability to keep information in awareness until a task is accomplished. An example would be when you tell your child to do three things and only two get done ( if  you’re lucky). People with ADHD have very poor working memory, so your child’s difficulties in school are likely related to difficulties with working memory.

The research was recently published in The Journal of Experimental Child Psychology by Dr. Tracy Alloway. It indicates that working memory is more important to academic success than IQ. Working memory is also the best predictor of reading,spelling and math

IQ is a very unreliable predictor of academic performance. Indeed, if I only had a nickel for every time a parent has told me– “He’s  very smart , he just doesn’t get good grades.”

So, the bad news is that here’s another problem for ADHD kids.

The good news is that working memory is something we know how to improve. The research on neuroplasticity indicates that the brain adapts and adjusts to the demands we make on it.

Computerized Cognitive Retraining(CCR) is a very effective, well-researched and efficient approach to improving working memory. We have known that CCR improves working memory,but we haven’t had direct evidence that it impacts education directly. Now we do.

This research also explains why tutoring for ADHD kids is frequently not effective. It’s not aimed at the right target. Its not designed to, nor does it improve working memory.

CCR can specifically target working memory and improve it . The improvements take 20-30 sessions of CCR to become noticeable and they last because you’re training and structurally changing your brain. MRI studies show that CCR causes growth in the specific part of the brain targeted by the program.

The part of your brain that’s involved in working memory actually gets bigger and more dense. (Density is good in this case because it means more dendritic connections, that is your neurons are talking to each other better.)

If you have questions about CCR and ADHD and/or school performance, feel free to contact me.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn May 13, 2010 at 1:58 am

My son has adhd and working memory issues. You mention CCR. Is there a specific program that you recommend.


TGingras March 23, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Sorry, this took so long. I have lots of excuses, but they’re just excuses.
The program I would recommend in general would be Cogmed. In the name of full disclosure, we recently became a certified Cogmed provider. Of course, we only did that because I researched it and decided it was the best program available. It is highly researched and very effective. Give us a call at 757-833-7107 for more information or go to their website –

Best of luck,

Paula November 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Can you provide me information about training? I have an almost seven year old who has ADHD and has a large discrepancy between his verbal and thinking ability and his cognitive efficiency and working memory.

We live outside of Columbus Ohio.

Thank you,


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