Does working memory training lead to generalized improvements in children with low working memory? A randomized controlled trial


Address for correspondence: Darren L. Dunning, Department of Psychology, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK; e-mail:


Children with low working memory typically make poor educational progress, and it has been speculated that difficulties in meeting the heavy working memory demands of the classroom may be a contributory factor. Intensive working memory training has been shown to boost performance on untrained memory tasks in a variety of populations. This first randomized controlled trial with low working memory children investigated whether the benefits of training extend beyond standard working memory tasks to other more complex activities typical of the classroom in which working memory plays a role, as well as to other cognitive skills and developing academic abilities. Children aged 7–9 years received either adaptive working memory training, non-adaptive working memory training with low memory loads, or no training. Adaptive training was associated with selective improvements in multiple untrained tests of working memory, with no evidence of changes in classroom analogues of activities that tax working memory, or any other cognitive assessments. Gains in verbal working memory were sustained one year after training. Thus the benefits of working memory training delivered in this way may not extend beyond structured working memory tasks.