Ways to Improve Working Memory

brain-healthWHAT IS WORKING MEMORY?

Jonidas, Lacey, and Nee (2005) define working memory as a system that can store a small amount of information briefly, keeping that information quickly accessible and available for transformation by rules and strategies, while updating it frequently.

This means working memory is a mental control process that involves higher order thinking tasks, which require attention and concentration.

Schwean and Saklofske (2005) reviewed multiple studies of children and adolescents diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Learning Disability.  Researchers found that children with these diagnoses tended to have lower working memory index scores.

HOW IS IT MEASURED?

Working memory is typically assessed by standardized assessments.  Wechsler intelligence tests have reigned for years as the “go to” intelligence assessment.  The Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC) measures working memory via the Working Memory Index.  The Working Memory Index measures attention, concentration, and working memory.

WHAT DOES A DEFICIT IN WORKING MEMORY MEAN?

Adults and teenagers with serious working memory deficits, who are employed, may have considerable difficulties at work.  A weakness in working memory may make the processing of complex information more time consuming and tax mental energies more quickly compared to co-workers.  This may contribute to more frequent errors on a variety of job-related tasks that require sustained attention and concentration.  Auditory working memory deficits may make the tasks of taking notes and attending to lectures more difficult.

ARE THERE WAYS TO IMPROVE WORKING MEMORY?

  • Yoga.  Research has shown that a combination of yoga postures and supine rest (meditation) improved memory scores and decreased state anxiety scores (Subramanya & Telles, 2009).
  • Mindfulness.  Executive Functioning is improved by mindfulness.  Executive functioning is Inhibiting irrelevant information, updating working memory, and controlling attention.  Therefore, paying attention on purpose can improve all aspects of executive functioning, which, in turn, enhances working memory (Diamond and Lee, 2011).
  • Memory Games.  Games such as Sudoku and crosswords may help with memory.  Lumosity, an online brain training game, is a free brain training regimen that has been researched by Harvard and Stanford Universities (Finn & McDonald, 2011).
  • Eat Super Foods.  Fruits and vegetables protect the brain from free radicals.  It’s important to reduce meat and sugar in the diet as they cause inflammation. The best foods to promote brain health are those rich in omega 3’s and B12 such as fish (wild salmon) and avocado.
References

Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science, 333, 959 –964.

Finn M, & McDonald S. (2011). Computerised cognitive training for older persons with mild cognitive impairment: A pilot study using a randomized controlled trial design. Brain Impairment, 12(3), 187–199. doi: 10.1375/brim.12.3.187.

Jonidas, J., Lacey, S.C., & Nee, D.E. (2005).  Process of working memory in mind and brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 2-5

Schwean, V. L., &  Saklofske, D.H. (2005). Assessment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with the WISC-IV. In A. Prifitera, D.H. Saklofske, & L.G. Weiss (Eds.), WISC-IV Clinical Use and Interpretation: Scientist-Practitioner Perspectives (pp. 235-280). San Diego, CA: Elsevier

Subramanya, P., Telles, S. (2009). Effect of two yoga based relaxation techniques on memory scores and state anxiety.  BioPsychoSocial Medicine

 

 

Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children