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Each year, approximately 1 child in every 100 is born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), making it the most common birth defect. With recent medical advances, more children with CHD survive early open-heart surgery, so that there are now 2 to 3 million adult survivors with CHD. These survivors face challenges in terms of their cognitive and behavioral development. For many, the limitations affect their academic achievement, social adaption and, ultimately, their quality of life. Among the most disabling limitations are those that pertain to the ability to maintain attention, plan and organize activities, regulate emotions, and develop problem-solving strategies. Collectively, these are referred to as executive functions (EF) because they are higher-order abilities that enable one to coordinate complex behaviors. Additionally, impaired EF also underlie mental health disorders. In spite of the abundance of evidence that children with CHD struggle with EF, there is little to offer them in the way of evidence-based interventions to prevent or mitigate these problems. The investigators propose to conduct the first randomized trial to evaluate the efficacy of an intervention, the Cogmed Working Memory Program, in improving the neurodevelopment outcomes of children with critical CHD after infant open-heart surgery. Children who meet eligibility criteria and who agree to participate will be randomly assigned to an intervention or control group. Children in the intervention group will complete 25 35-40 minute sessions of Cogmed training, spread over for 5 weeks. This Program is a set of home-based, child-friendly, computerized activities. The control group will receive the standard of care for children with CHD. Children's scores on EF and related neurodevelopmental tests will be evaluated before the intervention group completes Cogmed training, at the conclusion of their training, and 3 months later. The latter assessment will indicate whether any gains in EF skills of the children in the intervention group are sustained after training. Parents and teachers will also complete questionnaires about children's EF, attention, and social behaviors to determine whether training affects behaviors of the intervention group at home and in school. The investigators will also identify the medical and surgical characteristics of children who benefit most from Cogmed training. This information will be helpful in targeting the intervention most efficiently in the future.


Congenital Heart Defect, Executive Function, Children, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Working Memory, Infant Open Heart Surgery

Recruitment Status


Eligibility Criteria

Inclusion Criteria:

Open heart surgery before age 12 months of life
Ages between 7 years 0 months and 12 years 11 months
≥6 months post-cardiac surgery at enrollment
Cardiology follow-up (clinic or inpatient) at BCH or other affiliated center in the last 6 years.
English and/or Spanish speaking
Informed consent of parent/guardian as well as assent of child

Exclusion Criteria:

Known chromosomal anomalies and/or genetic syndromes
Severe physical and/or sensory impairments (hearing, visual, or psychomotor) that would prevent use of the computerized program and tablets
Confirmed formal diagnosis of any autism spectrum disorder or a severe developmental and/or intellectual disorder that would prevent successful completion of the planned study testing.
Scheduled to undergo major cardiac interventions in the 6 months following enrollment
Received, receiving, or scheduled to receive Cogmed or any other computerized behavioral training program targeting executive functions or ADHD


Intervention Type

Intervention Name


Cogmed Working Memory Training


Not Applicable



Min Age

7 Years

Max Age

12 Years

Download Date

February 1, 2021

Principal Investigator

Jane W. Newburger

Primary Contact Information

For more information on this trial, visit


For more information and to contact the study team:

Improving Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Children With Congenital Heart Disease: An Intervention Study NCT03023644