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IES Grant

Title: Combined Cognitive and Motivational Interventions for ADHD
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Shah, Priti Awardee: University of Michigan
Program: Cognition and Student Learning in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $1,599,750
Type: Exploration Award Number: R324A150023

Co-Principal Investigators: John Jonides and Susanne Jaeggi (University of California, Irvine)

Project Activities: In this project, an enhanced WM training intervention, including a motivational component, will be developed and then assessed to identify malleable factors that could promote positive academic and behavioral outcomes, including those that were observed in the research team's prior study. In Study 1, the motivational component of the intervention targeting increased self-efficacy skills of students with ADHD will be developed. Explicit training in motivation and in theories about the malleability of intelligence will be incorporated. In Study 2, the WM intervention developed previously will be modified by altering the procedures by which student performance on this the task is assessed. Finally, the motivational component (developed in Study 1) and the revised WM intervention (modified in Study 2) will be combined. The enhanced WM training will be assessed in Study 3 to determine whether the identified malleable factors are associated with positive academic and behavioral outcomes. Study 4 will examine mediators such as motivation as well as the transfer of cognitive skills to promote positive outcomes.

Products: The primary product of this study is an understanding of the mechanisms by which working memory improves on-task behaviors, attention, and academic outcomes for students with ADHD.  In addition, preliminary evidence of any additional malleable factors (motivation in particular) for students receiving WM interventions will be assessed. Peer-reviewed publications and presentations will also be products of this project.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This research project will take place in laboratories, schools, and homes in Michigan and California.

Sample: The study participants will include 260 children ages 7 to 14 years with ADHD. In Studies 1, 2, and 3, there will be a total of 60 students randomly assigned to a treatment or control condition. In Study 4, 80 children will participate, with all students receiving the treatment. Parents and teachers will also participate by completing questionnaires about the children.

Intervention: A previously developed intervention for WM, in which participants remember increasingly longer sequences of items in a game-like environment, will be modified. Modifications include the addition of content addressing self-efficacy and information about the malleability of cognitive abilities, the use of incremental skill levels within the game environment to reduce student frustration, and enhancements of game-like features and player options to increase children's engagement in the task. The intervention will be delivered using tablet devices.

Research Design and Methods: Four studies exploring the relationships among the variations in intervention, malleable factors, and outcomes (e.g., behavior, cognitive processes, and academic achievement) will be conducted. Study 1 will test the impact of a motivation intervention compared to a study skills control condition by randomly assigning participants to treatment and control groups. Study 2 will test the impact of changes in WM task difficulty as children improve. Study 3 will test whether the combined motivation and WM intervention impacts classroom behavior and academic outcomes using random assignment to the treatment and control conditions. Finally, Study 4 will assess potential mediators (i.e., why the intervention works) including increased and sustained attention, improved inhibition skills, and increased WM capacity. In addition, Study 4 will assess potential child-level moderators (i.e., for whom the intervention works) including higher cognitive performance and self-efficacy among children prior to the intervention.

Control Condition: Although this is an exploration project, control conditions are included in several of the studies. In Study 1, the control group will participate in a study skills intervention. In Study 2, the control group will be trained on a previous variant of the WM intervention before the modifications described earlier were made. In Study 3, the control group will receive a “knowledge intervention” that only minimally involves working memory. Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition in Study 4.

Key Measures:  Measures of WM, response inhibition, sustained attention, fluid intelligence (ability to reason in novel contexts), on-task behavior during a homework activity, classroom behavior, and achievement are included in this study. These measures include the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices, Woodcock Johnson Test of Achievement, the Michigan and California standardized state tests, and parent and teacher ratings on academic achievement and behavior. Classroom behavior will be measured through an actigraph that monitors physical activity.

Data Analytic Strategy:  Analyses will consist of descriptive analyses and statistical hypothesis testing (e.g., paired samples t-tests, analysis of variance, multivariate analysis of variance) to explore the effects of variations of the intervention. Differential models will assess potential mediators and moderators of any observed impacts of the cognitive training.


Book chapter

Katz, B., and Shah, P. (in press). Far Transfer may be Nearer Than you Think: Logical and Methodological Factors in Cognitive Training Research. In M. Bunting, J. Novick, M. Dougherty, and R. Engle (Eds.), Cognitive and Working MemoryTraining: Perspectives From Psychology, Neuroscience, and Human Development. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Katz, B., Jones, M., Shah, P., Buschkuehl, M., and Jaeggi, S.M. (2016). Individual Differences and Motivational Effects in Cognitive Training Research. In J. Karbach, and T. Strobach (Eds.), Cognitive Training: An Overview of Features and Activations. Springer International Publishing.

Tsai, N., Au., J., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2016). Working memory, language processing, and implications of malleability for second language acquisition. In G. Granena, D. O. Jackson, & Y. Yilmaz (Eds.). Cognitive individual differences in second language processing and acquisition (pp. 69–88). John Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Katz, B., Shah, P., & Meyer, D. (in press) How to play 20 questions with nature and lose: reflections on 100 years of brain training. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.