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J Appl Res Mem Cogn. 2012 Sep 1;1(3):179-184. Epub 2012 Jul 2.

Component Analysis of Simple Span vs. Complex Span Adaptive Working Memory Exercises: A Randomized, Controlled Trial.

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University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.


There has been growing interest in using adaptive training interventions such as Cogmed-RM to increase the capacity of working memory (WM), but this intervention may not be optimally designed. For instance, Cogmed-RM can target the primary memory (PM) component of WM capacity, but not the secondary memory (SM) component. The present study hypothesized that Cogmed-RM does not target SM capacity because the simple span exercises it uses may not cause a sufficient amount of information to be lost from PM during training. To investigate, we randomly assigned participants to either a standard (simple span; N = 31) or a modified (complex span; N = 30) training condition. The main findings showed that SM capacity did not improve, even in the modified training condition. Hence, the potency of span-based WM interventions cannot be increased simply by converting simple span exercises into complex span exercises.

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