Working memory low in children with ADHD

Working memory low in children with ADHD

Kerri Wachter

PHILADELPHIA — Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder performed worse than children without the disorder on tests of working memory–an important factor in learning and academic success, according to the results of a case-controlled study of 64 children aged 7-12 years.

In the study, 35 children with ADHD (24 males and 11 females) and 29 healthy controls (6 males and 23 females) were asked to perform the Digit Span test, which assesses working memory. Working memory allows a person to receive, store, and retrieve information on a temporary basis, said Dr. Kanchana Roychoudhury, a pediatrician at Flushing (N.Y.) Hospital Medical Center.

The Digit Span test comprises digit span forward (DSF) and digit span backward (DSB) tasks. In DSF, a list of random numbers is read aloud and, at the end of a sequence, the child is asked to recall the items in order. The test begins with two or three numbers, increasing until the child commits an error. In DSB, the child must recall the list of digits in reverse order. DSF relies on simple short-term auditory memory with sequencing and verbal expression; DSB requires more attentional demands.

On the Digit Span total score, the control group performed significantly better than the ADHD group. Likewise, the control group performed significantly better on the DSB. There was no difference between the groups on the DSF, said Dr. Roychoudhury, who presented the findings at the annual meeting of the Eastern Society for Pediatric Research.

The results indicate that with ADHD, “working memory is low and children have difficulty in remembering material, especially pertaining to dates in social studies and sequencing information appropriately in science and social studies. In mathematics, they have significant problems in procedures since they have to remember in a stepwise fashion how to do the calculation,” Dr. Roychoudhury said in an interview.


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