Does executive function capacity moderate the outcome of executive function training in children with ADHD?

  • Sebastiaan Dovis
  • Marija Maric
  • Pier J. M. Prins
  • Saskia Van der OordEmail author
Original Article


Executive functioning (EF) training interventions aimed at ADHD-symptom reduction have limited results. However, EF training might only be effective for children with relatively poor EF capacity. This randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study examined whether pre-training EF capacity moderates the outcome of an EF-training intervention on measures of near transfer (EF performance) and far transfer (ADHD symptoms and parent-rated EF behavior) immediately after treatment and at 3-month follow-up. Sixty-one children with ADHD (aged 8–12) were randomized either to an EF-training condition where working memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility were trained, or to a placebo condition. Single moderation models were used. All significant moderation outcomes had small effect sizes. After Bonferroni correction, there were no significant moderators of treatment outcome. Children with poor EF capacity do not benefit more from EF training than from placebo training. Training only EF-impaired children will probably not improve outcomes of EF training studies.


ADHD Cognitive training Moderation EF training Children 



We are grateful to Jeugdriagg Noord Holland Zuid, GGz Noord Holland Noord (Centrum voor Kinder- en Jeugdpsychiatrie), Regionaal Centrum voor Kinder en Jeugdpsychiatrie Gooi en Vechtstreek (RCKJP), Bosman GGz, Stichting De Praktijk, Stichting Kram, PuntP, Academisch Behandelcentrum UvA Minds, and Kinderpraktijk VIS, to multimedia company ShoSho for the gamification of Brian Game Brian, to Hilde Huizenga and Joost Agelink van Rentergem Zandvliet for their comments and statistical advice, to Marloes van der Arend, Tim van den Broek, Josje de Bont, Annette Brouwer, Tycho Dekkers, Lucie van den Eertwegh, Rebecca Goedee, Roza van der Heide, Lisanne Klink, Astrid Nauta, Inge Meulenberg, Muriël Musa, Pascale Riaskoff, Elise Tilma, Marije Voermans, Ida de Vries, and Pamina Warmbrunn for their help with data collection, and to all participating children and families.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

S.D., S.VDO and M.M. declare no competing interests relating to this paper. P.J.M.P. was member of Stichting Gaming & Training (until 2017), a nonprofit organization that facilitates the development and implementation of the above-mentioned EF training; “Braingame Brian.”


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019
corrected publication 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Developmental PsychologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Cognitive Science Center AmsterdamUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Clinical PsychologyKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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