Using developmental trajectories to examine verbal and visuospatial short-term memory development in children and adolescents with Williams and Down syndromes

Carney, Daniel P. J.; Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David; Dannielsson, Henrik; Brown, Janice H. and Rönnberg, Jerker (2013). Using developmental trajectories to examine verbal and visuospatial short-term memory development in children and adolescents with Williams and Down syndromes. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(10) pp. 3421–3432.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2013.07.012

Abstract

Williams (WS) and Down (DS) syndromes have been associated with specifically compromised short-term memory (STM) subsystems. Individuals with WS have shown impairments in visuospatial STM, while individuals with DS have often shown problems with the recall of verbal material. However, studies have not usually compared the development of STM skills in these domains, in these populations. The present study employed a cross-sectional developmental trajectories approach, plotting verbal and visuospatial STM performance against more general cognitive and chronological development, to investigate how the domain-specific skills of individuals with WS and DS may change as development progresses, as well as whether the difference between STM skill domains increases, in either group, as development progresses. Typically developing children, of broadly similar cognitive ability to the clinical groups, were also included. Planned between- and within-group comparisons were carried out. Individuals with WS and DS both showed the domain-specific STM weaknesses in overall performance that were expected based on the respective cognitive profiles. However, skills in both groups developed, according to general cognitive development, at similar rates to those of the TD group. In addition, no significant developmental divergence between STM domains was observed in either clinical group according to mental age or chronological age, although the general pattern of findings indicated that the influence of the latter variable across STM domains, particularly in WS, might merit further investigation.

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