Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 149–161

ADHD and Working Memory: The Impact of Central Executive Deficits and Exceeding Storage/Rehearsal Capacity on Observed Inattentive Behavior

  • Michael J. Kofler
  • Mark D. Rapport
  • Jennifer Bolden
  • Dustin E. Sarver
  • Joseph S. Raiker
Article

Abstract

Inattentive behavior is considered a core and pervasive feature of ADHD; however, an alternative model challenges this premise and hypothesizes a functional relationship between working memory deficits and inattentive behavior. The current study investigated whether inattentive behavior in children with ADHD is functionally related to the domain-general central executive and/or subsidiary storage/rehearsal components of working memory. Objective observations of children’s attentive behavior by independent observers were conducted while children with ADHD (n = 15) and typically developing children (n = 14) completed counterbalanced tasks that differentially manipulated central executive, phonological storage/rehearsal, and visuospatial storage/rehearsal demands. Results of latent variable and effect size confidence interval analyses revealed two conditions that completely accounted for the attentive behavior deficits in children with ADHD: (a) placing demands on central executive processing, the effect of which is evident under even low cognitive loads, and (b) exceeding storage/rehearsal capacity, which has similar effects on children with ADHD and typically developing children but occurs at lower cognitive loads for children with ADHD.

Keywords

ADHD Working memory Attention Central executive 

References

  1. Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2001). Manual for the ASEBA school-age forms & profiles. Burlington: University of Vermont Research Center for Children, Youth, & Families.Google Scholar
  2. Alloway, T. P., Gathercole, S. E., & Pickering, S. J. (2006). Verbal and visual spatial short-term and working memory in children: are they separable? Child Development, 77, 1698–1716.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Baddeley, A. (2007). Working memory, thought, and action. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barkley, R. A. (1997). Behavioral inhibition, sustained attention, and executive functions: constructing a unifying theory of ADHD. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 65–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Brocki, K. C., Randall, K. D., Bohlin, G., & Kerns, K. A. (2008). Working memory in school-aged children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder combined type: are deficits modality specific and are they independent of impaired inhibitory control? Journal of Clinical Experimental Neuropsychology, 4, 1–11.Google Scholar
  6. Cabeza, R., Kapur, S., Craik, F. I. M., McIntosh, A. R., Houle, S., & Tulving, E. (1997). Functional neuroanatomy of recall and recognition: a PET study of episodic memory. The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 9, 254–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Conway, A. R. A., Kane, M. J., Bunting, M. F., Hambrick, D. Z., Wilhelm, O., & Engle, R. W. (2005). Working memory span tasks: a methodological review and user’s guide. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12, 769–786.Google Scholar
  9. Engle, R. W., Tuholski, S. W., Laughlin, J. E., & Conway, A. R. (1999). Working memory, short-term memory, and general fluid intelligence: a latent variable approach. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 128, 309–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Lang, A. G., & Buchner, A. (2007). G*Power 3: a flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 175–191.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Gadow, K. D., Sprafkin, J., & Salisbury, H. (2004). Further validity evidence for the teacher version of the Child Symptom Inventory-4. School Psychology Quarterly, 19, 50–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Garavan, H. (1998). Serial attention within working memory. Memory & Cognition, 26, 263–276.Google Scholar
  13. Gathercole, S. E., & Alloway, T. P. (2008). Working memory and learning: A practical guide for teachers. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Gathercole, S. E., Pickering, S. J., Knight, C., & Stegmann, Z. (2004). Working memory skills and educational attainment: evidence from national curriculum assessment at 7 and 14 years of age. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Huang-Pollock, C. L., & Nigg, J. T. (2003). Searching for the attention deficit in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: the case of visuospatial orienting. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 801–830.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Huang-Pollock, C. L., Nigg, J. T., & Carr, T. H. (2005). Deficient attention is hard to find: applying the perceptual load model of selective attention to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder subtypes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 1211–1218.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Kahana, M. J., Rizzuto, D. S., & Schneider, A. R. (2005). Theoretical correlations and measured correlations: relating recognition and recall in four distributed memory models. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 31, 933–953.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kane, M. J., Bleckley, M. K., Conway, A. R. A., & Engle, R. W. (2001). A controlled-attention view of working memory capacity: individual differences in memory span and the control of visual orienting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 169–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kane, M. J., Brown, L. H., McVay, J. C., Silvia, P. J., Myin-Germeys, I., & Kwapil, T. R. (2007a). For whom the mind wanders, and when: an experience-sampling study of working memory and executive control in daily life. Psychological Science, 18, 614–621.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Kane, M. J., Conway, A. R. A., Miura, T. K., & Colflesh, G. J. H. (2007b). Working memory, attention control, and the n-back task: a question of construct validity. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33, 615–622.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Kaufman, J., Birmaher, B., Brent, D., Rao, U., Flynn, C., Moreci, P., et al. (1997). Schedule for affective disorders and schizophrenia for school-age children-present and lifetime version (K-SADS-PL): initial reliability and validity data. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 980–988.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Kofler, M. J., Rapport, M. D., & Alderson, R. M. (2008). Quantifying ADHD classroom inattentiveness, its moderators, and variability: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49, 59–69.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Koschack, J., Kunert, H. J., Derichs, G., Weniger, G., & Irle, E. (2003). Impaired and enhanced attentional function in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychological Medicine, 33, 481–489.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Lajoie, G., Anderson, V., Anderson, P., Tucker, A. R., Robertson, I. H., & Manly, T. (2005). Effects of methylphenidate on attention skills in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Brain Impairment, 6, 21–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee, D., Riccio, C. A., & Hynd, G. W. (2004). The role of executive functions in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: testing predictions from two models. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 19, 167–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Levy, F., Hay, D. A., McStephen, M., Wood, C., & Waldman, I. (1997). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a category or a continuum? Genetic analysis of a large-scale twin study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 737–744.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. MacLeod, C. M., & Kampe, K. (1996). Word frequency effects on a recall, recognition, and word fragment completion test. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 22, 132–142.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Martinussen, R., Hayden, J., Hogg-Johnson, S., & Tannock, R. (2005). A meta-analysis of working memory impairments in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 377–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nigg, J. T., Willcutt, E., Doyle, A. E., & Sonuga-Barke, J. S. (2005). Causal heterogeneity in ADHD: do we need neuropsychologically impaired subtypes? Biological Psychiatry, 57, 1224–1230.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Noldus Information Technology. (2003). The observer reference manual 5.0. Wageningen: Author.Google Scholar
  31. Oberauer, K. (2003). Selective attention to elements in working memory. Experimental Psychology, 50, 257–269.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Pelham, W. E., Fabiano, G. A., & Massetti, G. M. (2005). Evidence-based assessment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34, 449–476.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Rapport, M. D., Chung, K., Shore, C., Denney, C. B., & Isaacs, P. (2000). Upgrading the science and technology of assessment and diagnosis: laboratory and clinic-based assessment of children with ADHD. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29, 555–568.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Rapport, M. D., Chung, K., Shore, G., & Isaacs, P. (2001). A conceptual model of child psychopathology: implications for understanding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and treatment efficacy. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 30, 48–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Rapport, M. D., Alderson, R. M., Kofler, M. J., Sarver, D. E., Bolden, J., & Sims, V. (2008a). Working memory deficits in boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): the contribution of central executive and subsystem processes. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 825–837.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Rapport, M. D., Kofler, M. J., Alderson, R. M., & Raiker, J. (2008b). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. In M. Hersen & D. Reitman (Eds.), Handbook of psychological assessment, case conceptualization and treatment, volume 2: Children and adolescents (pp. 125–157). NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  37. Rapport, M. D., Bolden, J., Kofler, M. J., Sarver, D. E., Raiker, J. S., & Alderson, R. M. (2009). Hyperactivity in boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a ubiquitous core symptom or manifestation of working memory deficits? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 521–534.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Rucklidge, J. J., & Tannock, R. (2002). Neuropsychological profiles of adolescents with ADHD: effects of reading difficulties and gender. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 988–1003.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Sergeant, J. A., & Scholten, C. A. (1983). A stages-of-information approach to hyperactivity. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 24, 49–60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. SuperLab Pro (Version 2) [Computer program]. (2002). (http://www.cedrus.com), San Pedro, California: Cedrus Corporation.
  41. Swanson, H. L., & Kim, K. (2007). Working memory, short-term memory, and naming speed as predictors of children’s mathematical performance. Intelligence, 35, 151–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Thorell, L. B. (2007). Do delay aversion and executive function deficits make distinct contributions to the functional impact of ADHD symptoms? A study of early academic skill deficits. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48, 1061–1070.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Tucha, O., Prell, S., Mecklinger, L., Bormann-Kischkel, C., Kübber, S., Linder, M., et al. (2006). Effects of methylphenidate on multiple components of attention in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Psychopharmacology, 185, 315–326.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. van der Meere, J., & Sergeant, J. A. (1987). A divided attention experiment with pervasively hyperactive children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 15, 379–392.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. van der Meere, J. J., & Sergeant, J. A. (1988). Focused attention abilities in pervasively hyperactive children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 16, 627–639.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. van Mourik, R., Oosterlaan, J., Heslenfeld, D. J., Konig, C. E., & Sergeant, J. A. (2007). When distraction is not distracting: a behavioral and ERP study on distraction in ADHD. Clinical Neurophysiology, 118, 1855–1865.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Wilens, T. E., Biederman, J., Brown, S., Tanguay, S., Monuteaux, M. C., Blake, C., et al. (2002). Psychiatric comorbidity and functioning in clinically referred preschool children and school-age youths with ADHD. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 41, 262–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Willcutt, E. G., Doyle, A. E., Nigg, J. T., Faraone, S. V., & Pennington, B. F. (2005). Validity of the executive function theory of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analytic review. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 1336–1346.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Kofler
    • 1
  • Mark D. Rapport
    • 1
  • Jennifer Bolden
    • 1
  • Dustin E. Sarver
    • 1
  • Joseph S. Raiker
    • 1
  1. 1.Children’s Learning Clinic-IV, Department of PsychologyUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

Personalised recommendations