Computerized Working Memory Training in Pediatric Sickle Cell Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Steven J. Hardy, PhD Licensed Clinical Psychologist Divisions of Hematology and Oncology Children’s National Health System Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences Washington, DC

Dr. Steven J. Hardy

Steven J. Hardy, Phd
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Divisions of Hematology and Oncology
Children’s National Health System
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences Washington, DC

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Children with sickle cell disease exhibit neurocognitive deficits as a consequence of either silent or overt cerebral infarction or disease-related non-infarct central nervous system effects (likely resulting from chronic anemia and hypoxic events). These complications often lead to impairment in executive functioning (e.g., working memory, attention, inhibition, cognitive flexibility), which can make it difficult to focus in class, plan for long-term school projects, remember and carry out multi-step tasks or assignments, and stay organized. The literature on interventions to reduce neurocognitive sequelae of sickle cell disease is extremely limited.

Our research team investigated a promising home-based, computerized cognitive training program (Cogmed) involving repeated practice on performance-adapted exercises targeting working memory with a sample of youth (ages 7 – 16) with sickle cell disease. Of the participants who have enrolled in the study (n = 70), 49% exhibited working memory deficits (<25% in the general population have a working memory deficit) and were randomized to an eight-week waitlist or to begin Cogmed immediately. Participants who used Cogmed demonstrated significant improvements on multiple measures of working memory, while those randomized to the waitlist group only exhibited such improvements after receiving Cogmed. Approximately 25% of participants completed the recommended number of Cogmed sessions (20 – 25 sessions). However, analyses revealed that participants who completed at least 10 sessions (about 50% of the participants) showed comparable levels of working memory improvement.

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