The Working Memory

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The Working Memory
Faith MacDonald
COM/156
02/10/2013
Alletha Saunders

Imagine being a child sitting in a classroom, you have trouble concentrating, you cannot focus, there is too much background noise, you cannot seem to sit still, the teacher wants you to focus on your work and get it done. This is the life of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and it can be frustrating for both teacher and child. Children with ADHD often have trouble with their working memory, which in turn causes problems when they try to sit still and focus on completing a simple task. According to cogmed.com, “Working memory is the cognitive function responsible for keeping information online, manipulating it, and using it in your thinking.” The working memory is an important function in the brain, and if it is not working properly then it can cause major problems for a person. The working memory directly affects children with ADHD, by retraining the working memory, children with ADHD can learn to focus and process information more accurately.

The working memory works with our short term memory and controls two different subsystems in our brains which are central executive and Visuo-Spatial Sketch Pad. “The Visuo-Spatial Sketch Pad stores and processes information in a visual or spatial form” (simplypsychology.org). The central executive is the overseer of the whole system and hands out data to both the Visuo-Spatial Sketch Pad and the phonological loop (the part of the brain that memorizes things such as phone numbers) while dealing with smaller things such as problem solving. Visuo-Spatial Sketch Pad stores information in a visual form. To understand the basic idea of how these all work I will compare the central executive as the coach of a basketball team, the Visuo-Spatial Sketch Pad and the phonological loop are the players on the team. The coach’s job is to direct the players and give them guidance on how to get the job done while it is the job of the players to complete different tasks in order to get the ball in the basket; each player uses their different positions to work together for this common goal. That being said it is extremely important for all of the subsystems to work properly in order for the working memory to function correctly. According to an article in an academic journal, “Several lines of research indicate that dopamine plays an important role not only in working memory function but also for improving working memory capacity” (Klingberg, 2012).

Dopamine is described as a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that transmits signals in the brain to other important areas. When a person’s brain does not produce enough dopamine then there will be problems with the functioning of the working memory. One common way to increase a person’s dopamine levels is through medication, this is often why a child with ADHD is put on medication or stimulants to help them function in a more normal way and not be as distracted as they normally would. While medication may sound like an easy fix, it’s important to note that there are side effects and over all consequences to taking these stimulants, when looking at a person who does drugs there is an abundance of dopamine in their system which could be a contributing factor in why they become drug addicts. Besides prescribing medications to improve the working memory there is also the idea of computerized training in people that indicates an association with dopamine receptor density. There have been studies that show the working memory can be re trained to learn how to focus and process information in a more accurate manner.

Over the years research has shown that children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) tend to have more problems with their working memory. In a recent article titled Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, a study was done to see if there was a link between working memory...
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