Working Memory

by Vicki Parker, Ph.D. CCC-SLP

Working memory is the driver for achievement and learning.  If you want to learn new things then working memory is key for you to progress forward. In working memory the information is held while we manipulate it, similar to a computer’s clipboard.  Working memory is activated for new information and for retrieval of long term or stored information.  Working memory is not domain specific and is at work with both auditory and visual stimuli, it is involved in the operations of input and output.

 Below are some of the frequent signs and symptoms of difficulty with working memory:

  • Difficulty following and participating in fast moving conversations.
  • Starting new topics frequently during conversations and having off topic comments.
  • Reading something one day and not being able to recall the details the next.
  • Not being able to recall new a process presented at work, and have to reread the instructions even after having practiced the task multiple times.
  • Time management difficulties including frequently being late.
  • Easily distractible and has difficulty maintaining focus.
  • Trouble with organizing and breaking down tasks into smaller steps.
  • Difficulty following movies with multiple characters.

If you experience some of the symptoms listed above on a fairly regular basis it is time for an assessment and planning the best way to improve your skills.  Memory is changeable with training!

 There are many ways to improve working memory; some examples are memory exercises, working on internal timing, playing games that have memory components and computer activities. Memory can be improved by priming our thought process (pre-focusing) and prediction.  When we get our mind ready to learn something it does a better job at holding this information.   An example of this would be having questions to review before we read an article.  Mental tracking, partly an attention activity, is an activity researched that improves working memory.  For example, track the number of cars in front of you in the drive thru to determine how long until your turn. Mental comparison activities are tasks that aid in memory gains; an example would be determining which size pan is needed to feed 10 people.  Visualization strategies and mnemonics help individuals recall concepts that can be linked together; for example creating a story to remember your grocery list versus writing items down.  Strategies that help individuals remember by location are another way to help with recall by learning patterns and associations.  Over learning concepts, i.e. math facts, that were learned in many ways and contexts is a useful strategy to move something from working memory to long term memory. 

 The most researched and effective computer based program is Cogmed™; an evidence-based program for improving attention by training an individual's working memory.  Games that promote memory include:  Battleship, Simon, concentration type games and many computer based games.

Memory responds well to training.  If you are concerned about your memory make a plan and start working on improving your skills today.

 Parker is the sole owner of The Brain Trainer, Speech Pathology services and a cognitive learning center for all ages. For additional information about the services offered, call us at (704)541-1373 or visit us online at

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