The Science: Memory

The Science: About Memory

Research has demonstrated processing and working memory are the best predictors of academic success or failure.

Studies have shown working memory is critical to successful mathematics and reading skills (Gathercole, 2006). Working memory was found to be the most significant factor in reading comprehension, even above fluency and word attack skills (Swanson, 2009). Further research showed that because reading comprehension required focused attention and processing verbal information, working memory appeared to be the key to success in this academic and life skill area (Carretti, 2009). Good working memory was also found to be the best predictor of a child's ability in mathematics achievement, as well as poor working memory was found to be the best predictor of future learning difficulties (DeSmet, 2009). In studies regarding mathematics specifically, it has long been known that anxiety plays a key role in the difficulty of students learning mathematics. In one study, it was found that working memory ability was a key factor in the presence of or absence of anxiety in students attempting to learn mathematics or performing well on tests in mathematics (Alamolhodaei, 2009). Research also supports significant gains can be made in working memory by working on tasks requiring the limit of its capacity to be taxed, and these gains continue over time in terms of improvement in reading and mathematics (Holmes, 2009).

Short-term memory seems to be crucial for the cognitive processes of learning because it associates incoming information with information previously retained (Cantor, Engle, & Hamilton, 1991). One of the most accepted forms of assessment in brain studies regarding this component of working memory is a digit/letter span test (La Pointe, & Engle, 1990). This test offers insight into memory. It links to attention span, sequential processing, and organization of information (Sylwester, 1997). Studies have identified a relationship between poor performance on digit/letter span tests and diminished memory (Long, 2000). Individuals who experience reading and learning difficulties cannot keep information in its correct, sequential order (Eslinger, 2003). No recall is possible because rapid articulation of information reaches a point of decay (Shmidt & Boshuizen, 1993). Unable to learn at a typical pace of instruction, these individuals miss learning skills and concepts (Watson & Willows, 1995). With digit/letter span training, Ericsson and Linch (2003) reported that for individuals who managed to remember more than 7 units, text comprehension was not impaired by long interruptions between the readings of consecutive sentences. Simply Smarter’s digit/letter span exercises were developed to increase the ease and speed with which critical elements are retrieved after interruption.

The rate at which individuals need to process information in the 21st century's high speed, information-packed, constantly changing, competitive environment is overwhelming (Long, 2000). The human brain is the center for thought, emotion, action planning, and self-regulation of mind and body and has a remarkable ability for plasticity based on the input processed (Eslinger, 2003). In order for a higher-level process to use the input from a lower-level process, that input must remain available for some minimal amount of time (Groeger, 1992). Working memory plays a significant role in high-level processes such as organizing thoughts and ideas, building outlines and hierarchical order plans, and creating schemas for designed exercises (Parasuraman, 1998). Cognitive training tools can be used to assist individuals to reach their working memory potential (Long, 2000).

Higher-level processing takes place in the area of the prefrontal cortex (Braver et al., 1997). This area shows activity during object working memory such as in planning, focusing attention on an object, and switching between tasks (Schoubotz & von Cramon, 2001). Good high-level functioning depends upon the brain's abilities to prioritize tasks and switch from parallel processing to sequential processing when the processing load of the tasks is excessive (Humphreys, Tehan, O'Shea, & Bolland, 2000). Simulation experiments that were designed to test the hypothesis that a single learning system is capable of presenting both serial and temporal structures supported the fact that temporal structure is an integral part of the sequence, and where temporal structure is altered, the sequence can also change (Dominey, Lelekov, Dominey, & Jeannerod, 1998; Schubotz & von Cramon, 2001). Temporal order is especially vital in everyday life where perceptual abilities and language skills (e.g. typing) must be precisely timed and put in proper order. Simply Smarter's sequential processing exercises facilitate executive memory, which is a function of temporal order processing (Eslinger, 2003; Weinberger & Gallhofer, 1997).

Attention and refocusing are a function of the left hemisphere neural network and are especially important when there is interference with the main task or during multitasking (Meyer et al., 1997). Simply Smarter’s sequential processing training affects the central executive control systems which mediate attention and regulation of processes occurring in working memory (Narayanan, 2003). Neuroimaging studies also yield that there is high metabolic activity in different brain areas activated in spatial object memory tasks compared to those in verbal working memory tasks (Eden, Stein, Wood, & Wood, 1995; Pazzaglia & Cornoldi, 1999; Vecchi, Monticellai, & Cornoldi, 1995). Simply Smarter’s sequential processing exercises tax working memory to its capacity in these brain areas by presenting spatial object and verbal tasks.


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