Working memory is the ability to briefly (a few seconds) remember information and use this information in your thinking. It is important because it helps to drive the other executive functions of the brain. Your working memory is closely related to your ability to pay attention and learn: you can remember information for a short while by concentrating on it, but it disappears from your memory if you are distracted.
If you have or your child/teen has trouble with several of the following tasks, you may have trouble with your working memory:
- Are you easily distracted when doing something that is not highly interesting?
- Do you have trouble waiting your turn like in a conversation or waiting in line?
- Do you struggle with reading comprehension & have to read texts repeatedly to understand?
- Do you struggle with problem solving that requires holding information in mind like doing mental math calculations?
- Do you struggle to understand when listening to a story or having a conversation?
- Do you struggle with getting started on new tasks and completing them?
- Do you forget what you were planning to say when called on?
- Do you have difficulty taking notes and listening at the same time?
- Do you lose belongings frequently?
- Do you have trouble getting to places & meetings on time?
- Do you have ADHD?
- Do you have low productivity & are at risk of failing or losing your job?
These problems are commonly experienced by children, teens and adults who not only have working memory deficits but also have learning differences or ADHD traits. The guide below breaks down the tasks that require working memory and what happens when working memory is not working at its fullest potential by developmental stages/age groups.
|Age Group||Tasks that require working memory||Indicators that working memory can be improved|
|Seniors (all adults items apply)|
Torkel Klingberg, MD, PhD, neuroscientist, founder of Cogmed and author of The Learning Brain, talks about the importance and impact of working memory on children’s school performance. Working memory influences the ability to focus, remember instructions, make mental math calculations and other important abilities necessary to learn in a classroom.
More information and videos about working memory and executive function is available on the Resources page.