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As Norman Doidge wrote in his book, The Brain That Changes Itself, our brain is capable of change over our lifespan (neuroplasticity). The current research on students in the Arrowsmith Program is demonstrating this fact – that the brains of students in the Arrowsmith Program are changing in positive directions and these changes are linked to positive changes in cognition, academic achievement and social/emotional behaviours.

Research findings from studies into the Arrowsmith Program were presented by Dr Greg Rose (Southern Illinois University), Dr Lara Boyd (University of British Columbia) and Dr Rachel Weber (University of British Columbia) in New York in February 2019. Data was collected from students in the Arrowsmith Program in six schools (two in the U.S. and four in Canada). The results demonstrated:

Significant positive changes in the following Cognitive Domains:

  • long-term memory
  • visual working memoryVisual working memory is a cognitive system that maintains visual information in memory so that it can be quickly accessed to serve the needs of ongoing tasks
  • efficiency and speed of cognitive processing Processing speed is defined as the time it takes a person to do a mental task. It is related to the speed in which a person can understand and react to the information they receive, whether it be visual (letters and numbers), auditory (language), or movement. In other words, processing speed is the time between receiving and responding to a stimulus. The higher the processing speed, the more efficient a person is able to think and learn.
  • reasoning
  • visual-auditory learning This measures a student’s ability to learn to associate symbols with words and read sentences comprised of these symbols based on memory of the auditory association of the word and the symbol. This ability is related to associative memory for learning vocabulary and for reading
  • verbal fluencyThis measures a student’s ability to rapidly retrieve words from memory
  • vigilanceThis measures a student’s performance on a task which requires sustained attention and resistance from distraction

Significant improvements in Attention:

  • staying focused
  • paying attention
  • listening well

Significant improvements in the Academic Domains of:

  • reading fluency (reading speed)
  • word reading
  • spelling
  • math fluencyThis measures a student’s ability to solve simple addition, subtraction and multiplication facts quickly
  • computationthis measures a student’s ability to perform paper and pencil math computations. Items range from writing numbers through numerical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • academic fluencyThis measures a student’s ability to quickly read short sentences, do simple math calculations, and write simple sentences

Significant improvements in social/emotional behaviours in the areas of:

  • leadership
  • adaptability
  • social skills


Reduction in symptoms of:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • withdrawal
  • conduct problemsengaging in antisocial and rule-breaking behavior
  • aggression
  • hyperactivity


Significant improvements in activities of daily living:

  • acts in safe manner
  • organizes chores
  • following routines


In 1977, Barbara Arrowsmith Young, founder of the Arrowsmith Program, hypothesized that targeted cognitive exercises could change the brain and the resultant change would improve an individual’s ability to learn. These results provide evidence that the program is changing the student’s fundamental capacity to learn. This is neuroplasticity in action.


If you would like to watch the February 21, 2019 research presentation in New York City:
Register to receive the link to the video recording
Click here to watch the March 14, 2019 research presentation at UBC.