Grounded in Experience
The Simply Smarter Project is an initiative of the NACD Foundation, a not-for-profit daughter organization of the National Association for Child Development (NACD). The Simply Smarter Project directly benefits from the deeply rooted clinical experience of NACD.
Under the direction of founder Robert J. Doman, Jr., NACD has created a neurodevelomental approach to the remediation of developmental, educational, and neurological problems based upon the gestalt of the individual. NACD’s neurodevelopmental approach utilizes neurologically-based, targeted, and eclectic treatment methodologies that have been verified with over 30,000 clients, from infant to geriatric, whose function has ranged from comatose to gifted.
For the last four decades, NACD has been working internationally to enhance the cognitive and global function of people of all ages—from babies to seniors. Software to improve auditory and visual processing was actually first produced by NACD in 1982 utilizing Commodore Pet Computers. NACD has experienced, through the application of targeted cognitive training activities, that many people of all ages were able to improve aspects of their cognition. Due to 30+ million hours of intervention, NACD has gained tremendous insight and learned some valuable lessons that have significance for individuals and the world. From our extensive clinical experience it appears that:
- How we function reflects neither our individual potential, nor that of our species. We all possess an innate potential that far surpasses virtually everyone’s expectations.
- Our ability to think, learn, understand, and communicate—our cognitive function– is largely a reflection of the stimulation and opportunities we have received throughout our lifetime.
- The foundational component of cognitive function is the ability to sequentially process information for subsequent mental manipulation and utilization.
- The now universally accepted understanding of the neuroplasticity of the human brain is such that we can stimulate the brain by supplying it with targeted input of sufficient frequency, intensity, and duration and physically transform its structure and function.
- Thus, targeted intervention can transform the brain to achieve improved cognitive processes.
- As sequential processing improves overall cognitive function is enhanced.
We primarily learn through what we see and what we hear. Our brains take in new pieces of visual and auditory information in a piece-by-piece sequential process to a certain level of retention. This level of sequential processing is referred to as short-term memory. The short-term memory provides the capacity for holding together the pieces of information to be manipulated with our executive function, including our working memory. We manipulate information in our working memory two ways: through thinking in pictures, called visualization, and thinking in words, called conceptualization. Executive function is the term used for the manipulation of information in working memory via visualization or conceptualization. Executive function utilizes the manipulated information by drawing upon information you have previously learned. Utilization refers to making sense of the information made relative by referencing what we already know and have stored in long-term memory. Executive function is also used to describe the higher-level cognitive functions that control problem solving, impulse control, organization, time management, etc., all components that contribute to improved global function.
Current State of Academic Research
While NACD has been helping individuals make gains in sequential processing and working memory for more than 30 years, the academic community has just begun to acknowledge that working memory can be developed and improved [1-6]. That is, the neuroplasticity of the brain allows it to be physically transformed to create a greater working memory [7-9]. Furthermore, improved working memory has the potential to transfer to higher-order mental abilities such as fluid intelligence [10-12], reading comprehension [13-14], math competence , and the self-remediation of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms [16-18], to name just a few.
The effects of cognitive training transferring to other mental abilities outside the specific cognitive processes necessary to perform the training activity are called “far-transfer effects.” Therefore, enhanced fluid intelligence, reading comprehension, math competence, and other higher-order mental abilities are potential far-transfer effects of improved working memory. However, the exact far-transfer effects of any given specific cognitive process are poorly understood; or, in this case, the far-transfer effects of the specific components of working memory are poorly understood . This is likely because there are a number of working memory models within the academic community that fail to agree on everything from what components constitute working memory to the actual definition of what those components are . Gibson et al. (2013) also notes these far-transfer effects are poorly understood in part because the specific cognitive processes that are actually being trained by existing training programs are not really understood.
Current State of Cognitive Training
The academic research highlights the three major problems with current cognitive training programs on the market. First of all, training programs other than NACD’s, which target the foundation of cognition, mainly train cognitive processes that are subsidiary to the core components of all cognitive function, and therefore, these training programs have limited far-transfer effects. Secondly, training programs do not understand the underlying cognitive processes necessary to perform their training activities, and therefore, the training activities rarely target the cognitive processes involved and improvement often plateaus. Finally, if the cognitive processes are not targeted, then the training activities also cannot be optimized to produce the most improvement in the least amount of time.
The NACD Advantage
Perhaps NACD’s approach most significant advantage is that it works with not aspects of the individual, but with the whole individual. It has, since its inception, understood and utilized neuroplasticity, and has correlated everything from aspects of cognition, motor function, hearing, vision, speech, academics, behavior, and health and diet, etc. NACD’s work with individuals has as its foundation a great awareness of the far-transfer effects of all aspects of individual development and function, from their nutrition and sleep to effects of exercise, the positive or negative aspects of their environment, to global effects of improved hand function, changes in self worth, to cognitive enhancement. It is the very nature of how NACD works and interacts with individuals and their families.*
NACD has already answered the questions the academic community is just beginning to ask, has put the knowledge into practice, and has refined, through the firsthand experience of working intimately with over 30,000 clients over four decades. NACD has an understanding of the core components of cognitive function and how these cognitive processes relate to overall function. As a result, NACD has been able to develop the targeted, optimized cognitive training activities that have reaped benefits with the tens of thousands of individuals with whom they have worked, including the areas of:
- Academics (students with strong processing abilities demonstrate high academic skills)
- Reading comprehension
- Learning across subject matter
- Communication and language expression
- Problem solving
- Attention span
- Conceptual thought
- Global maturation
We invite academic and neuroscience researchers to test the effect of the far-transfer effects of NACD’s cognitive training programs following our best practices versus any other training program on the market. Meanwhile, the Simply Smarter Project will continue to investigate the effects of far-transfer effects, as well as other aspects.
*The neuropsychological world is at best focused on pieces of individual function and often just pieces of their neurological function and as such tend not to see the big picture, which if you will helps explain why it took them so long to recognize that working memory could be changed. If they took their eyes off of trying to understand the pieces of Executive function long enough they would have realized that working memory normally develops through childhood and into our young adult lives and if it develops, it changes and because of neuroplasticity what changes can be changed.
- Buschkuehl, M., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2010). Improving intelligence: A literature review. Swiss Medical Weekly, 140, 266–272.
- Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science, 333, 959–964.
- Melby-Lervåg, M., & Hulme, C. (2012). Is working memory training effective? A meta-analytic review. Developmental Psychology. doi:1037/a0028228
- Morrison, A. B., & Chein, J. M. (2011). Does working memory training work? The promise and challenges of enhancing cognition by training working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 46–60.
- Shipstead, Z., Hicks, K. L., & Engle, R. W. (2012a). Cogmed working memory training: Does the evidence support the claims? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 185–193.
- Shipstead, Z., Redick, T. S., & Engle, R. W. (2012b). Is working memory training effective? Psychological Bulletin, 138, 628–654. doi:1037/a0027473
- Schneiders, J. A., et al. (2012). The impact of auditory working memory training on the fronto-parietal working memory network. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, doi:10.3389/fnhum.2012.00173.
- Jausovec, N., & Jausovec, K. (2012). Working memory training: Improving intelligence—changing brain activity. Brain and Cognition, 79, 96–106.
- Klingberg, T. (2010). Training and plasticity of working memory. Trends in Cognition Sciences, 14, 317–324.
- Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Perrig, W. J. (2008). Improved fluid intelligence with training on working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105, 6829–6833.
- Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Shah, P. (2011). Short and long-term benefits of cognitive training. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 10081–10086.
- Klingberg, T., Fernell, E., Olesen, P. J., Johnson, M., Gustafsson, P., Dahlström, K., & Westerberg, H. (2005). Computerized training of working memory in children with ADHD—A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 177–186.
- Chein, J. M., & Morrison, A. B. (2010). Expanding the mind’s workspace: Training and transfer effects with a complex working memory span task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 193-199.
- Dahlin, K. I. E. (2010). Effects of working memory training on reading in children with special needs. Reading and Writing, 24, 479–491. doi:1007/s11145-010-9238-y
- Holmes, J., Gathercole, S. E., & Dunning, D. L. (2009). Adaptive training leads to sustained enhancement of poor working memory in children. Developmental Science, 12, F9–F15.
- Beck, S. J., Hanson, C. A., Puffenberger, S. S., Benninger, K. L., & Benninger, W. B. (2010). A controlled trial of working memory training for children and adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 39, 825–836.
- Gibson, B. S., Gondoli, D. M., Johnson, A. C., Steeger, C. M., Dobrzenski, B. A., & Morrissey, R. A. (2011). Component analysis of verbal versus spatial working memory training in adolescents with ADHD: A randomized, controlled trial. Child Neuropsychology, 17, 546–563.
- Holmes, J., Gathercole, S. E., Place, M., Dunning, D. L., Hilton, K. A., & Elliott, J. G. (2010). Working memory deficits can be overcome: Impacts of training and medication on working memory in children with ADHD. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 827–836.
- Gibson, B.S., et al. (2013). Exploration of an adaptive training regimen that can target the secondary memory component of working memory capacity. Memory Cognition. DOI 10.3758/s13421-013-0295-8
- Unsworth, N., & Spillers, G. J. (2010). Working memory capacity: Attention control, secondary memory, or both? A direct test of the dual-component model. Journal of Memory and Language, 62, 392-406.