The effects of cognitive training on executive functions and reading in typically-developing children with varied socioeconomic status in Brazil

Janaina Weissheimer, Renata Callipo Fujii, Juliana Geizy Marques Souza


Recent findings show that children from low-socioeconomic status (SES) tend to have reduced performance on several tasks involving working memory, attention and executive control.  In addition, researchers argue for the effectiveness of training of these same cognitive skills as a way to ameliorate children’s EF skills as well as scholastic outcomes. To investigate possible training effects and to study the impact of SES on scholastic achievement in Brazilian children, we trained 61 children for 5-7 weeks and compared their performance with that of 60 age-matched peers on measures of executive functions and reading. Our results demonstrate a general effect of SES for the dependent variables. Furthermore, our findings demonstrate a positive near transfer effect on a working memory and a selective attention test and a far transfer effect on the words and pseudowords reading measure.


Executive Functions; Socioeconomic status; Reading; Cognitive Training

Full Text:



Alloway, T., Gathercole, S., Kirkwood, H., & Elliott, J. G. (2008). The cognitive and behavioral characteristics of children with low working memory. Child Development, 80, 606–621.

Au, J., Jaeggi, S. M., &Buschkuehl, M. (2018). Effects of non-symbolic arithmetic training on symbolic arithmetic and the approximate number system. ActaPsychologica, 185, 1–12.

Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. J. (1994). Developments in the concept of working memory. Neuropsychology 8:485–93.

Bowers, J. S. (2016). The practical and principled problems with educational neuroscience. Psychological Review,[s.l.], v. 123, n. 5, p.600-612. American Psychological Association (APA).

Brickenkamp, R. (2002). Test d2. The d2 test of attention (9th ed.). Goettingen, Germany: Hogrefe.

Brito, N. H., & Noble, K. G, (2014). Socioeconomic status and structural brain development. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 8, 1-12.

Chein, J. M., & Morrison, A. B. (2010). Expanding the minds workspace: Training and transfer effects with a complex working memory span task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17(2), 193-199.

Coltheart, M. (2013). Modelando a leitura: a abordagem da dupla rota. In: Snowling, M. J.; Hulme, C. A ciência da leitura. Porto Alegre: Penso. Cap. 1. p. 24-41.

Diamond, A. (2013). Executive Functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135–68.

Dresler, T., Bugden, S., Gouet, C., Lallier, M., Oliveira, D. G., Pinheiro-Chagas, P., Pires, A. C., Wang, Y., Zugarramurdi, C., & Weissheimer, J. (2018). A Translational Framework of Educational Neuroscience in Learning Disorders. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, v. 12, p. 25.

Duncan, G. J. and Magnuson, K. (2012). Socioeconomic Status and Cognitive Functioning: Moving from Correlation to Causation. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 3(3), 377-386.

Farah, M. J. (2017). The Neuroscience of Socioeconomic Status: Correlates, Causes, and Consequences. Neuron 96, 56-71.

Farah M.J., Shera D.M., Savage J.H., Betancourt L., Giannetta J.M., Brodsky N.L., Malmud E.K., & H, Hurt. (2006). Childhood poverty: Specific associations with neurocognitive development. Brain Research, 1110, 166-174.

Goldin A.P., Hermida M.J., Shalom D.E., Elias Costa M., Lopez-Rosenfeld M., Segretin M.S., Fernández-Slezak D., Lipina S.J., & Sigman M. (2014). Far transfer to language and math of a short software-based gaming intervention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111 (17): 6443–6448.

Hackman, D. A., & Farah, M. J. (2009). Socioeconomic Status and the developing brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 65-73.

Hofmann, W., Schmeichel, B. J., & Baddeley, A. D. (2012). Executive functions and self-regulation. Trends in Cognitive Science, 16, 174-180.

Hsu, N. S., Novick, J. M., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2014). The development and malleability of executive control abilities. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8, 1-15.

Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Perrig, W. J. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(19), 6829-6833.

JASP Team (2019). JASP (Version 0.9) [Computer Software]. Retrieved from

John A. M. St., Kibbe, M., & Tarullo, A. R. (2019). A systematic assessment of socioeconomic status and executive functioning in early childhood. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 178, 352-368.

Lent, R., Buchweitz, A., &Mota, M. (2018). Ciência para Educação: Uma Ponte entre Dois Mundos. Rio de Janeiro: Atheneu.

Lipina, S. J. (2017). Critical considerations about the use of poverty measures in the study of cognitive development. International Journal of Psychology. Vol. 52, No. 3, 241–250.

Lipina, S. J., Martelli, M. I., Vuelta, B., & Colombo, J. A. (2005). Performance on the A-not-B task of Argentinean infants from unsatisfied and satisfied basic needs homes. Interam. J. Psychol. 39, 49–60.

Loosli S.V., Buschkuehl M., Perrig W.J., & Jaeggi S.M. (2012). Working memory training improves reading processes in typically developing children. ChildNeuropsychology, 18:1, 62-78.

Maia, M. (2018). Psicolinguística e Educação. Campinas: Mercado de Letras, 258p.

Miyake A, Friedman N.P., Emerson M.J., Witzki A.H., Howerter A, & Wager T.D. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex “frontal lobe” tasks: a latent variable analysis. Cogn. Psychol. 41:49–100.

Monsell, S. (2003) Task switching. Trends Cogn. Sci. 7, 134–140.

Noble, K. G., Norman, M. F., & Farah, M. J. (2005). Neurocognitive correlates of socioeconomic status in kindergarten children. Developmental Science,8, 74-87.

Noble, K. G., McCandliss, B. D., & Farah, M. J. (2007). Socioeconomic Gradients Predict Individual Differences in Neurocognitive Abilities. Developmental Science, 10, 464-480.

Pahor, A., Jaeggi, S.M., & Seitz, A. (2018). Brain Training. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

Ramani, G. B., Jaeggi, S. M., Daubert, E., & Buschkuehl, M. (2017). Domain-general and domain-specific training to improve kindergarten children’s mathematics. JournalofNumericCognition, 3(2), 1-28.

Salles, J. (2005). Habilidades e dificuldades de leitura e escrita em crianças de 2ª série: abordagem neuropsicológica cognitiva (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Programa de Pós-graduação em Psicologia do Desenvolvimento, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.

Saraiva, R. A., Moojen, S. M. P. & Munarski, R. (2007). Avaliação da Compreensão Leitora de Textos Expositivos. 2. ed. São Paulo: Casa do Psicólogo, 2009.

Sigman, M., Peña, M., Goldin, A.P., &Ribeiro, S. (2014). Neuroscience and education: prime time to build the bridge. Nature Neuroscience, 17, 497-502.

Varma, S., McCandliss, B. D., & Schwartz, D. L. (2008). Scientific and Pragmatic Challenges for Bridging Education and Neuroscience. Educational Researcher, 37(3), 140–152.

Zhang, Q., Wang, C., Zhao, Q., Yang, L. Buschkuehl, M., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2018). The malleability of executive function in early childhood: Effects of schooling and targeted training. Developmental Science. 1-15.


Copyright (c) 2019 Juliana Geizy Marques de Souza, Renata Callipo Fujii, Janaina Weissheimer

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.