Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 1171–1185 | Cite as

Are Episodic Buffer Processes Intact in ADHD? Experimental Evidence and Linkage with Hyperactive Behavior

  • Michael J. KoflerEmail author
  • Jamie A. Spiegel
  • Kristin E. Austin
  • Lauren N. Irwin
  • Elia F. Soto
  • Dustin E. Sarver


Working memory deficits are present in a substantial proportion of children with ADHD, and converging evidence links these deficits with ADHD-related behavioral and functional impairments. At the same time, working memory is not a unitary construct, and evidence is lacking regarding the role of several components of this system in ADHD. Preclinical behavioral studies are needed to fractionate the multicomponent working memory system, determine which specific subcomponent(s) are impaired in ADHD, and more importantly link these subcomponent(s) with specific ADHD-related behavioral symptoms/functional impairments. The current study reflects one piece of that puzzle, and focuses on the episodic buffer component of working memory. Across multiple testing days, a well-characterized sample of 86 children ages 8–13 (M=10.52, SD=1.54; 34 girls; 64% Caucasian/Non-Hispanic) with ADHD (n=49) and without ADHD (n=37) completed three counterbalanced working memory tests that were identical in all aspects except the key subcomponent process (phonological, visuospatial, episodic buffer). Gross motor movement during these and control tasks were measured using 4 high-precision actigraphs. There was no evidence of group differences in gender, age, SES, or IQ. Bayesian mixed-model ANOVAs indicated that the ADHD group performed significantly worse on all three working memory tests (d=1.17–1.44) and was significantly more hyperactive than controls (d=0.66–1.05) during the visuospatial and episodic buffer tests. In contrast, the ADHD and Non-ADHD groups were equivalent with regard to effects of episodic buffer demands on performance and hyperactive behavior. The most parsimonious conclusion is that the episodic buffer is likely intact in ADHD, and unrelated to ADHD hyperactivity symptoms.


ADHD Working memory Episodic buffer Phonological Visuospatial Actigraph 



This work was supported in part by an NIH grant (R34 MH102499-01, PI: Kofler). The sponsors had no role in design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; or preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Kofler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jamie A. Spiegel
    • 1
  • Kristin E. Austin
    • 1
  • Lauren N. Irwin
    • 1
  • Elia F. Soto
    • 1
  • Dustin E. Sarver
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics, Center for Advancement of YouthUniversity of Mississippi Medical CenterJacksonUSA

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