Working memory is all about our ability to memorise and manipulate information that has been removed from our external environment. This article explores some basics on this topic and then outlines RehaCom's approach to retraining.
The notion of this aspect of memory has been described for over a hundred years but of course our understanding of how it works has changed and continues to change. Working memory provides a functional core to high-level cognitive function. Until recently it was thought that this ability was the responsibility of fairly stable brain patterns in the prefrontal cortex. Research has suggested instead that the areas of the brain responsible for working memory are changing all the time. The raises the interesting question about how it is possible to keep a stable thought somehow in mind whilst brain activity is constantly in flux.
For you and I, the bottom line is that in many daily life situations we need to hold certain pieces of information “fresh and available” in our minds, deal with other tasks and interruptions before returning to that information once more. “Now where did I put those keys - I had them a minute ago”.
A quick glance at the scientific and popular literature shows a lot of information (and a good deal of misinformation) on this topic. A quick search for social media shares today reveals some interesting articles:-
“Study finds chimps have better working memory than humans”
“Study : Climbing a tree significantly improves working memory”
“Green tea boosts your brain power, especially your working memory”
“Turmeric boosts working memory in one small dose”
“How working memory games can improve kids’ executive function in 5 minutes a day”
Now I will hold my hands up and say I haven't read any of the above yet (they are genuine articles I came across) but they may make interesting reading.
Part of the problem is it is so hard to separate fact from pseudo science. We see many articles related to memory and conditions such as stroke, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, brain injury etc and we should question the relevance of a particular piece of literature to these states.
Whilst we can hope for pharmacological or techniques such as stem cell therapy to provide the benefits we need, at present the main approaches are either compensation approaches or re-training (restitution) approaches.
RehaCom has long offered a Working Memory training module that is aligned with a theory posed by psychologists that information is stored in multiple “buffers” which are controlled by a supervisory system called the Central Executive. Of course this is a conceptual model - you cant point at these things as physical structures of the brain.
Clinical practice in Germany pretty much universally accepts that this training approach with RehaCom can be effective. Of course we suggest clinical guidance as not all persons may be suitable for this approach. Certainly following a stroke or traumatic brain injury, RehaCom may certainly be suitable providing the training is necessary and sufficient in intensity and not treated as a silver bullet.
Critics of restitution approaches worry that improved performance with the software will not transfer to real life improvements. Our view is that RehaCom is an enabling tool for the therapist - it isn't a total solution by itself. A therapist can help users make that leap and apply these abilities.
This RehaCom training module (WOME) can be used for training the visuo-spatial sketchpad for short-term storage of visual representations, for training the phonological loop for storing nonverbal information and for training the central executive which is responsible for linking this information to the long-term memory. Since non-verbal information is used this RehaCom training module is suitable for persons from 10 years and up.
During the training the user has to memorise and manipulate an increasing number of playing cards presented on the computer screen. The content to be memorised might be presented visually or acoustically. Initially the client only has to remember the items whilst at higher levels additional tasks are introduced to influence the memory process. Thus this taks can train not only the working memory but also accompanying abilities such as problem solving, reasoning, deductive reasoning, speech comprehension, calculation performances and intelligence.
For the training, a complete card deck of 52 cards is used. The training material is accompanied by diverse distractors on the cards; animated distractors for training the resistance to interference a well as graphics to increase the feedback available on performance.
If you would like to see this training explained in a video check this out
If you would like to learn more about RehaCom check out this site and you can request a demo disk.