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Evidence from two genetic syndromes for the independence of spatial and visual working memory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 January 2006

Stefano Vicari
Affiliation:
IRCCS, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, Santa Marinella, Italy.
Samantha Bellucci
Affiliation:
IRCCS, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, Santa Marinella, Italy.
Giovanni Augusto Carlesimo
Affiliation:
IRCCS, Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, Italy.
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Abstract

This study aimed at investigating the possible dissociation between visual–object and visual–spatial working memory (WM) in individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) and Down syndrome (DS). Four study groups were included: WS group (10 males, 5 females) with a mean chronological age (CA) of 19 years 8 months (SD 6y 1mo) and a mean mental age (MA)of 6 years 11 months (SD 1y 5mo); WS comparison group (7 males, 8 females) comprised of typically developing children with a mean CA of 6 years 10 months (SD 10mo) and a mean MA of 6 years 11 months (SD 8mo)matched as a group with the participants with WS on the basis of mental age; DS group (11 males, 7 females) with a mean CA of 15 years 10 months (SD 5y 8mo) and a mean MA of 5 years 2 months (SD 8mo); and DS comparison group (10 males, 8 females) with a mean CA of 5 years and 1 month (SD 7mo)and a mean MA of 5 years 2 months (SD 8mo) selected to match the DS group on the basis of mental age. They were all administered tests that explored visual perception (Visual Perception Test – Subtest 4 and Line Orientation tests), visual imagery (imaging the colour of objects and the tail length of well-known animals), spatial imagery (mental rotation of visually presented or verbally evoked objects), and WM for visual–object and visual–spatial information. Individuals with WS exhibited specific difficulties in the visual–spatial, but not the visual–object, WM task. Instead, people with DS showed reduced performance in both tests. However, whereas the observed deficit in individuals with DS persisted when perceptual abilities were taken into account, the deficit in individuals with DS was compensated when their scores were adjusted for performance on perceptual tasks. These results support the hypothesis of a dissociation within the sketch-pad slave system in the WM model and reinforce the view of intellectual disability as a non-unitary condition.

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Original Articles
Copyright
2006 Mac Keith Press

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