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The extent of working memory deficits associated with Williams syndrome : exploration of verbal and spatial domains and executively controlled processes

Rhodes, Sinead M. and Riby, Deborah M. and Fraser, Emma and Campbell, Lorna Elise (2011) The extent of working memory deficits associated with Williams syndrome : exploration of verbal and spatial domains and executively controlled processes. Brain and Cognition, 77 (2). pp. 208-214.

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Abstract

The present study investigated verbal and spatial working memory (WM) functioning in individuals with the neuro-developmental disorder Williams syndrome (WS) using WM component tasks. While there is strong evidence of WM impairments in WS, previous research has focused on short-term memory and has neglected assessment of executive components of WM. There is a particular lack of consensus concerning the profile of verbal WM functioning in WS. Here, WS participants were compared to typically developing participants matched for (1) verbal ability and (2) spatial ability (N = 14 in each of the 3 groups). Individuals with WS were impaired on verbal WM tasks, both those involving short-term maintenance of information and executive manipulation, in comparison to verbal-matched controls. Surprisingly, individuals with WS were not impaired on a spatial task assessing short-term maintenance of information in memory (remembering spatial locations) compared to spatial-matched controls. They were, however, impaired on a spatial executive WM task requiring the manipulation of spatial information in memory. The present study suggests that individuals with WS show WM impairments that extend to both verbal and spatial domains, although spatial deficits are selective to executive aspects of WM function.