A UCJC study shows that technology can improve the cognitive performance of people with Down Syndrome

The School of Education and Health of University Camilo José Cela has published the article entitled The benefits of technology in visual-spatial processing in children with Down Syndrome in the British Journal of Educational Technology. The study shows that the use of new technologies can be a great ally for the stimulation and maintenance of the cognitive functioning of people with Down Syndrome, more specifically, in treating patients that require a guided stimulation.

The study has been carried out with the collaboration of the ‘María Coredentora’ Private Education Centre and the Smile and Learn® educational platform has been used, which develops educational games designed specifically to enhance certain cognitive skills in a fun and interactive way.

The findings also establish that these improvements in visuospatial handling, retention and reasoning are developed through the autonomous use of interactive games.

These findings have special relevance both in the educational field and in the psycho-educational therapy. The population with Down syndrome has a great potential for developing and managing their cognitive abilities, being especially skilled in nonverbal tasks. Although this syndrome is associated with intellectual disability, there are mechanisms that allow enhancing the management and optimisation of the development of basic cognitive skills.

The study was conducted with a sample of 26 children and adolescents with Down syndrome and previously diagnosed with “moderate learning disability”. Three applications were used in periods of at least one hour, three times a week. Each participant used their own tablet and chose the game to which they wanted to spend that time: bubbles (selective attention), pairs (short-term visual-spatial memory) or tangram (visual-spatial processing).

The main objective of the study is to verify the effect produced by the use of certain games on the Smile and Learn® platform in tasks related to selective attention, visual- spatial operating memory – understood as visual attention – and visuospatial reasoning – understood as attention to space. The results indicate that the use of this technology, although it produces improvements in spatial reasoning and visual attention, does not produce the same effect in selective attention. This is probably due to the fact that the task chosen for selective attention relies heavily on processing speed, a skill in which people with Down syndrome have difficulties.

A second objective was also proposed, to analyse to what extent the results obtained in tasks related to selective attention and visual attention could explain the results in spatial attention tasks. The results show that spatial attention depends heavily on people’s capacity for visual attention.