Can academic functioning for children born preterm be improved through working memory training?

Approximately 8.5% of all births are preterm (<37 weeks of gestation), with these children at an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Learning Disorder.

A NHMRC funded project led by MICCN’s Professor Peter Anderson recently set out to assess the effectiveness of Cogmed Working Memory Training in improving academic functioning two years after training in extremely preterm/extremely low birth weight 7-year-olds.

The study was conducted at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and all tertiary neonatal hospitals in Victoria. Children were randomly assigned to either the Cogmed program or a similar, undemanding training program, which were completed at home over 5-7 weeks.

Academic achievement such as word reading, spelling, sentence comprehension and mathematics, was assessed at two weeks, one year and two years following training, via standardised testing inclusive of working memory, attention, and executive behaviour assessments.

This research determined that Cogmed should not be currently recommend in efforts to improve academic functioning in these early school-aged children, as there was no evidence of its benefits.

“While we found no evidence that Cogmed training benefitted academic, working memory or attention skills in children born extremely preterm or extremely low birth weight compared with a placebo version of the program, more research is still needed,” Mrs Leona Pascoe, the project coordinator of the trial said. “Given our findings, we currently cannot recommend Cogmed to families of extremely preterm children. However, our next step is to try and understand if there are particular cohorts of preterm children and families who are more suited to training so we can better target these intervention approaches to children that may benefit”.

Read the full paper, “Long-Term Academic Functioning Following Cogmed Working Memory Training for Children Born Extremely Preterm: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, here.

Follow MICCN: 

Mrs Leona Pascoe