Verbal, visual, and spatio-sequential short-term memory: assessment of the storage capacities of children and teenagers with Down's syndrome

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BackgroundIt is recognized that individuals with Down's syndrome have a specific deficit in verbal short-term memory. On the other hand, non-verbal short-term memory seems to be preserved or even be a strong point for these persons. Nevertheless, the extent and specificity of the deficit must be determined. To do so, we carried out a research programme that allowed us to simultaneously assess various short-term memory systems in a developmental perspective, and to compare our participants' performance to that obtained by typically developing individuals of the same mental age.MethodThree span tasks are used (auditory word span/visual patterns test/Corsi blocks task) with 54 children and teenagers with Down's syndrome and 54 typically developing children as control group. Participants were matched according to their cognitive level.ResultsFor the auditory word span task, participants with Down's syndrome obtained performances significantly lower than those of the typically developing participants. On the other hand, compared with typically developing children, children and teenagers with Down's syndrome have a spatio-sequential span significantly higher for the lowest developmental ages. No significant differences were found for visual span.ConclusionsIndividuals with Down's syndrome exhibited a distinctive pattern of memory performance, in addition to their developmental specificities.

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