Readers often ask my opinion on the various “brain-training” programs—computer-based activities that ostensibly improve brain functions in children and adults with ADHD. My personal opinion is that I’ve seen no evidence that these games transfer into real life; that is, one’s scores might show improvement but does real-life functioning? And, in fact, I’ve wondered if these computer-based activities actually exacerbate the problematic addictions that many people with ADHD experience with electronic information.
Now a meta-analysis of existing studies conducted by a team of researchers at two universities casts doubt on the utility of these programs.
“We found that these treatments are not effective for treating children with ADHD,” said Michael Kofler, assistant professor and director of the University of Virginia Curry School of Education’s Children’s Learning Clinic. “They don’t improve ADHD symptoms or behavior, they don’t improve academic achievement, and in many cases do not improve the cognitive functions they claim to target.”
“Parents are desperate for help,” said psychology professor Mark Rapport, who runs the Children’s Learning Clinic IV at University of Central Florida. “If they can afford it, they are willing to spend the money, and some parents even enroll their children in private schools because they offer these cognitive training programs. But there is no empirical evidence to show those investments are worthwhile.”
Rapport says he initiated the study because many parents whose children are evaluated at the clinic ask if they should invest in the programs. The study is featured in the December issue of Clinical Psychology Review.
The bottom line: Before spending thousands of dollars on these highly marketed programs, please consider the evidence. You can read more about the study at the University of Virginia site and this University of Central Florida site.