BeFast:
Building Executive Functions for Academic Success Training

Attention, executive function, and working memory contribute to children’s academic success by helping them stay focused and process information. Deficits in attention and working memory contribute to lower academic performance, reduced engagement in school, and limited academic success. Research has shown that children with lower-than-average attention and working memory can benefit from an intervention targeting these skills

The BeFast research and training project is an effort to boost attention and working memory skills in children and young adults. Attention and working memory skills, two important executive functions, contribute to children’s academic success by helping them stay focused and process information. Deficits in attention and working memory may lead to frustration with reading, language comprehension, mathematics, and following directions as well as reduced engagement in school, diminished self-confidence, and lower overall academic performance.

Dr. Eugene Wong, Professor of Psychology and Human Development, and Dr. Dudley Wiest, Professor of Educational Psychology and Counseling, are involved in implementing an ongoing study aimed at boosting attention and working memory. To do this, the research team utilizes a computerized cognitive training program developed by BrainTrain©, which uses a game-like interface to target skills related to attention and working memory. The games adapt to the players’ abilities, providing a scaffolding experience that is both challenging and fun.

The BeFast team works with local schools to integrate this computerized cognitive training program into the daily school curricula. Typically, participants spend 30 minutes per day playing selected games for a total of 40 sessions. Results from the ongoing study are very promising. After as few as 20 hours of training, children with attention and working memory deficits show improvements in attention and working memory skills as measured by clinical assessments as well as teacher checklist reports. The BeFast goal is to enhance children’s executive functioning so they are more prepared for and interested in educational pursuits and ultimately to support academic and life success.