Cognitive training may help children with problem solving

June 24, 2011

A child?s problem-solving skills can be improved by cognitive training through the use of computerized video game-like tasks, and the improvement can persist for at least 3 months after completion of the training, report researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

A child’s problem-solving skills can be improved by cognitive training through the use of computerized video game-like tasks, and the improvement can persist for at least 3 months after completion of the training, report researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The investigators tested the effect of cognitive training on fluid intelligence (the ability to reason abstractly and solve novel problems) in 76 elementary and middle-school children. Children performed working-memory tasks in which they were presented with a series of images (1 at a time) at different spatial locations on a video screen and then asked whether a newly presented image appeared at the same location as the one presented n items back in the series. Active controls answered general knowledge and vocabulary questions. Each group completed 10 rounds of 1-minute tasks.

The children completed 2 different matrix reasoning tasks before and immediately after the exercise and again at 3 months after the task. These matrix reasoning tasks were designed to represent fluid intelligence.

Children who did cognitive training had significant improvement in their matrix reasoning task scores immediately after and 3 months after the cognitive training exercise, whereas the control group showed no improvement. The improvement in the cognitive training group was limited to those children who had a large gain in the number of correct answers from the first 2 to the last 2 training sessions. Pretest and initial training performance between these 2 groups was not significantly different.

Children who improved the least during the cognitive training rated the game as more difficult and effortful. Whether children who found the training difficult would benefit from customizing the training regimen to make it challenging but not overwhelming requires further study.

Jaeggi SM, Buschkuehl M, Jonides J, Shah P. Short- and long-term benefits of cognitive training. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011. Epub ahead of print.