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5 Exercises to Help Target Working Memory

Posted by Emily Dubas, MS, CCC-SLP
Emily Dubas, MS, CCC-SLP
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With a smartphone always handy, it’s easy to forget how much information we keep in our heads on a regular basis. If you have to add up how many dinner plates you need for a party you’re hosting, do you grab your calculator to figure out an answer? Most likely, no, because you can keep and access small chunks of information—your working memory is what allows you to access and manipulate that info.

Our working memories are a sort of a mental clipboard for both auditory and visual information that we use in order to do daily activities such as following instructions, planning our days, and making calculations. Verbal information is stored in an area of working memory called the phonological loop, and visual information is stored in an area called the visuospatial sketchpad.

After a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other neurological impairment, often this mental clipboard may hold less information. However, research shows that regular practice can increase working memory capacity.

Using Constant Therapy Memory Tasks In-Clinic

If you’re working on memory skills with your clients, you may be training internal memory strategies such as verbal rehearsal, chunking/grouping, associations, visualization, or remembering the total number of items in a list.

Are you looking for materials to practice these memory strategies?

Constant Therapy allows patients to practice several tasks targeting visual working memory (Picture Matching and Face Matching), nonverbal auditory memory (Environmental Sound Matching), and verbal working memory (Word Matching and Sound Matching).

Using Constant Therapy Memory Tasks at Home

To improve carryover of internal memory strategies to environments outside of the therapy session, homework is key. Your client can complete these memory exercises as a part of their Constant Therapy home program.

You as the clinician can stay connected and monitor performance on tasks done outside of the session. Can the client achieve similar accuracy and latency scores as they do in the clinic? If there is a discrepancy in scores, perhaps the memory strategies need to be revisited in the clinic.

Let’s take a look at these 5 memory exercises.

1. Picture Matching
Targeting visual memory skills, the client will tap on the cards to match pairs of pictured objects.

app_screenshots_picturematching

2. Face Matching
Targeting visual memory skills, the client will tap on the cards to match pairs of photographs of people.

app_screenshots_face_matching

3. Environmental Sound Matching
Targeting nonverbal auditory memory skills, the client will tap on the cards to match pairs of common sounds heard in a person’s environment.

app_screenshots_enviromentalsoundmatching

4. Word Matching
Targeting verbal memory skills, the client will tap on the cards to match pairs of written words.

app_screenshots_wordmatching

5. Sound Matching
Targeting verbal memory skills, the client will tap on the cards to match pairs of spoken words.

app_screenshots_soundmatching

How Are the Memory Matching Tasks Leveled?

All matching tasks have five levels. As the levels increase, more items are added to the grid. Levels are as follows.

  • Level 1: 6 items in a grid
  • Level 2: 12 items in a grid
  • Level 3: 20 items in a grid
  • Level 4: 24 items in a grid
  • Level 5: 30 items in a grid

How Are the Matching Tasks Scored?

The minimum number of moves is calculated, then any additional moves beyond that results in a reduction of score.

Address Other Cognitive and Language Skills

These matching tasks target memory and visuospatial skills, but you can use these exercises in other ways in your sessions, too.

  • Alternating Attention: Set a timer and have your client work on a matching task for a period of time. When the timer goes off, the client must switch to a new task. Then, when the timer goes off again, have the client return to the matching task to finish.
  • Divided Attention: Use the matching task as one stimulus. You can use other types of stimuli, such as listening to a podcast or news clip simultaneously. The client must complete the task while listening to the podcast, then answer comprehension questions about it.
  • Left Inattention/Left Neglect: This task requires the client to scan the entire length of the screen in order to locate all of the target items.
  • Delayed Memory: After the grid is completed, have the client recall the location of the items on the grid after a period of time elapses.
  • Word Retrieval: For Picture Matching, your client can say or write the name of the pictures as he/she finds the matching pictures.
  • Oral Reading: For Word Matching, your client can read the words aloud as he/she finds the matching written words.
  • Repetition: For Sound Matching, your client can repeat the words as he/she finds the matching spoken words.
  • Sentence Production: For Picture, Face, Sound, and Word Matching, your client can generate a sentence about the matching items.
  • Planning and Disinhibition: Using trial-and-error to complete these tasks will result in low accuracy scores. Prompt your client to develop a plan for minimizing errors and not selecting the same incorrect matches multiple times.
  • Self-Monitoring: This is a great task to work on self-monitoring skills. Your client can assess if he/she is implementing internal memory strategies effectively.
  • Processing Speed: All Constant Therapy tasks provide information on latency times. You and your client can track how speed improves over time.
Check out our training videos to learn more about our tasks.

References:

  1. Dunn, J., & Clare, L. (2007). Learning face-name associations in early-stage dementia: comparing the effects of errorless learning and effortful processing. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 735-54.
  2. Klingberg, T. (2010). Training and plasticity of working memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 317-24.
  3. Westerberg, H., Jacobacus, H., & Hirvikoski, T. (2007). Computerized working memory training after stroke- A pilot study. Brain Injury, 21, 21-9.

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Constant Therapy is an award-winning cognitive and speech therapy app, created for survivors of stroke, brain injury, and other neurogenic disorders.

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