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Quickest Test For Visual/Non-Verbal Working Memory

July 5th, 2010 No comments

Dr. Atila Turgay, one of the leading experts in Canada on ADD/ADHD passed away in April.  He had been Chief Of Staff at Toronto’s Scarborough Hospital, although recently he had returned to private practice.  He was also on the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto.  You can read more about Dr. Turgay at Dr. Kenny Handelman’s blog here. I saw him just before he left his post at the hospital and set up his office at Davisville and Yonge in the heart of Toronto.  My reason for being there was a review of medication I had been prescribed for ADD since the physician who was currently writing the prescriptions had not originally either prescribed them nor done the diagnosis.  Dr. Turgay performed the shortest test I had ever encountered for the three aspects of working memory.  The first two were not uncommon.  He asked me to remember a string of seven numbers and then repeat them backwards.  He did a similar one for verbal working memory.  Then he sat right opposite me and asked me to observe him, without moving, until he asked me to replicate what he did with his fingers and hands.  What he did seamed simple enough.  His hands were reversed with one finger on one hand touching a finger on the other.  But when my turn came to replicate it I could not–even after a couple of tries.  I had seen Dr. Turgay describe this test in several lectures sponsored by the Attention Deficit Resource Network but this was my first opportunity to actually do it.  His conclusion, after these three short tests, was that I had an impairment in visual/non verbal working memory.  Some years ago I did a completed psycho-educational assessment valued at close to $2,000 and a similar component, lasting at least half an hour, had reached the same conclusion.

My visit only lasted a few minutes and the medical part of it was over before I knew it.  He concurred with the medication I was taking and with dosages and schedules.  Then he quizzed me on my background and interests, as it turned out, to see if I might be of service to the ADD/ADHD community.  It wasn’t his suggestion but this meeting was one of the reasons I started this blog.  I heard him speak on a couple of times and my appointment with him two years ago only lasted perhaps 20 minutes but I will miss him.  Not only was he a great resource to the ADD/ADHD community he was, in my experience, a kind and caring individual.

It was on reading his obituary and remembering his visual/non-verbal working memory test that led to a mini-ah ha moment.  I had always marveled that one of the profound and noticeable effects of even a small dose of ritalin would lead to a great improvement in my hand-writing.  I’m no expert but I would bet that there is a large component of visual/non-verbal working memory skill in handwriting.