Improving Your Working Memory With ADD

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Research suggests that mental exercises may increase working memory in individuals with ADD/ADHD. Read on to learn more about working memory and ways to improve it.

Many people with ADD/ADHD have difficulty with working memory. They may have difficulty with recall, focusing, organization, and distinguishing between important and unimportant cues. They may distract easily, become forgetful, or have difficulty getting started on tasks. Lengthy multiple-step directions are often frustrating and impossible to follow.

Training working memory can help improve a person's ability to concentrate, control impulsive behaviors, and strengthen problem-solving skills.

What Is Working Memory?

Working memory is a “temporary storage system” in the brain that holds several facts or thoughts while solving a problem or performing a task. Working memory helps individuals hold information long enough to use it in the short term, focus on a task, and remember what to do next.

Dr. Torkel Klingberg, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and a leading researcher on working memory, notes that working memory deficits in individuals with ADHD “can explain why they forget the ‘internal plan’ of what they are supposed to do next, or forget what they should focus their attention on.”

Dr. Klingberg’s research paper, Computerized Training of Working Memory in Children with ADHD, indicates that working memory can be strengthened. Working memory is like plastic—flexible, moveable, and trainable, similar to our muscles. It can be improved with “exercise” and training.

You can find various working memory challenges online. You may be tested for your ability to recall visual patterns or to recall auditory information.

How to Work on Your Working Memory

Try the following sites.

  • The memory gym: The memory gym includes challenges with flashing numbers, spoken numbers, flashing cards, flashing shapes, flashing words, and counting dots. How well can you do? Be sure to click on the tips for memorizing.
  • Brain teasers: Teasers from; “It is always good to stimulate our minds and to learn a bit about how our brains work.” Check out the site to try challenges involving attention, memory, pattern recognition and planning, visual teasers, logic, and math. The site even includes fun experiments to help demonstrate how our brains work.
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  1. Beck SJ, Hanson CA, Puffenberger SS, Benninger KL, Benninger WB. A Controlled Trial of Working Memory Training for Children and Adolescents with ADHD. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2010;39(6):825-836. doi:10.1080/15374416.2010.517162

  2. Klingberg T, Fernell E, Olesen PJ, et al. Computerized Training of Working Memory in Children With ADHD-A Randomized, Controlled Trial. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2005;44(2):177-186. doi:10.1097/00004583-200502000-00010