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Can Improved Working Memory Help Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

-- QC Recruiting 7- to 11-Year-Old AD/HD Children for Free Research Study That Uses Memory-Training Exercises and Social Skills Development to Change Behavior --

FLUSHING, N.Y., February 1, 2010 – All of us at one time have forgotten an item on a shopping list in our heads or an important phone number or address.  Consider how frustrating and stressful it is for a child who is hyperactive, inattentive or impulsive to forget important information.  What if there was a way to strengthen the child’s ability to hold onto information by expanding memory capacity through mental exercises?  Would a better working memory make it easier for parents to help develop their children’s social skills and improve their behavior?  Would the combination of these two programs lead to improvement in the youngster’s attention span, problem-solving ability and impulse control?

A new research study and free treatment program at Queens College is seeking answers to these questions. Called Refining Attention Memory and Parenting (RAMP), the program is recruiting families with 7- to 11-year-old children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). RAMP uses home-based, computerized memory-training exercises to enhance a child’s brain development and long-term behavioral functioning without medications like Ritalin and Adderall.

The National Institute of Mental Health has provided a three-year grant of $697,500 to test the RAMP approach.  If preliminary results prove promising, the college will receive additional funding for more advanced study.


According to QC Psychology Professor Anil Chacko, who is directing the program, AD/HD is among the most common neurological disorders in American children.  Fewer than half of children with the disorder outgrow it; if untreated, it can have long-term adverse effects into adolescence and adulthood.

“Research has found that the brain development of children with AD/HD – particularly in areas that involve aspects of memory, attention and planning – is delayed,” Chacko says. “Treatments such as psycho-stimulant drugs or behavioral therapy alone provide short-term, symptomatic relief for AD/HD, but limited, if any, long-lasting benefits. Our approach is unique

because it integrates computerized working-memory training with interventions that target parenting techniques and children’s social skills development. We feel this is a powerful combination that will insure lasting cognitive and behavioral improvements.”

Here’s how the program works:

Following a comprehensive evaluation, children take part in a computerized memory-training program that has been downloaded to their home computer.  Each day for five weeks  they spend an hour completing different exercises presented in an entertaining video game format. 

One game involves recalling numbers in the reverse order in which they are given.  In another, the youngster must remember the sequence in which rows of lights turn on.  They use their computer mouse to punch in the answers, earning points along the way.  The program stays a step ahead of the child’s ability, making the exercises increasingly more difficult and challenging.  The parent serves as a motivational coach, supporting the child to stay on-task.

After the memory-training portion is over, families attend weekly parenting and child social skills groups at the college for nine weeks to learn strategies to modify and manage their children’s behavior, while the children learn about key social skills. Because the program is expected to enhance academic achievement, the child’s teacher is also required to fill out a set of questionnaires assessing the student’s performance in reading and math before and after the training.  Both teachers and parents are reimbursed for their time.

Families interested in participating in this free evaluation and treatment program should call: 718-997-3248 or Email: Both parent and child must be fluent in English, and the family must have Internet access at home.  To be considered for the study, the child cannot exhibit an autism spectrum disorder. 

Besides his affiliation with Queens College, Chacko is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, as well as a licensed clinical psychologist in New York State with a background in developing and evaluating multi-component psycho-social behavioral interventions for youth with behavioral difficulties.  He has received several grants to support his research in such areas as AD/HD intervention for preschoolers, treatment for single mothers of children with AD/HD, and prevention of child maltreatment in high-risk populations.

“There aren’t a lot of services and resources in Queens for children with mental health difficulties,” says Chacko.  However, Queens College has built a strong reputation for its outreach to parents whose children have AD/HD, autism and other neurological disorders.  For example, Chacko also works on the Queens College Preschool Project with QC Distinguished Psychology Professor Jeffrey Halperin, who is currently conducting a separate study to determine whether four- and five-year-olds with AD/HD can change their behavior by playing skill-based games.  Halperin has been an active clinical researcher in the area of AD/HD and child behavior disorders for over two decades.


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Deputy Director of News Services
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(718) 997- 5597

Maria Matteo
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Queens Hall, Room 270B
(718) 997-5593

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