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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01851

Virtual Reality Assessment of Classroom-Related Attention: An Ecologically Relevant Approach to Evaluating the Effectiveness of Working Memory Training

 Benjamin Coleman1*, Sarah Marion2,  Albert Rizzo3, Janiece Turnbull4 and  Anne Nolty4
  • 1Point Loma Nazarene University, United States
  • 2Northwest Nazarene University, United States
  • 3University of Southern California, United States
  • 4Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, United States

Computerized cognitive interventions to improve working memory also purport to improve ADHD-related inattention and off task behavior. Such interventions have been shown to improve working memory, executive functioning, and fluid reasoning on standardized neuropsychological measures. However, debate continues as to whether such programs lead to improvement on ecologically relevant outcomes, such as classroom behavior. This study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of working memory training on real-world attention performance. Participants included 15 children, aged 6 to 15, identified as having learning and attention problems. Both before and after completing five weeks of Cogmed Working Memory Training, each child was assessed via the Virtual Classroom Continuous Performance Task, a validated measure of sustained attention set within a virtual environment. Several key areas of attention performance were observed to improve, including omission errors, reaction time, reaction time variability, and hit variability. Results suggest that working memory training led to substantial improvements in sustained attention in a real-life scenario of classroom learning. Moreover, the use of psychometrically-validated virtual reality measurement provides incremental validity beyond that of teacher or parent report of behavior. Observing such improvements on ecologically relevant measures of attention adds to the discussion around computerized working memory training as a viable option to treat attention disorders and serves to inform consumer awareness of such products and their claims.

Keywords: virtual reality, ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder), Cognitive training and 'brain training', Ecological Validity, working memory

Received: 08 Apr 2019; Accepted: 29 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Jan B. Van Erp, University of Twente, Netherlands

Reviewed by:

Ana Miranda, University of Valencia, Spain
Kette D. Valente, University of São Paulo, Brazil  

Copyright: © 2019 Coleman, Marion, Rizzo, Turnbull and Nolty. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Benjamin Coleman, Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, United States, bcolema1@pointloma.edu