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

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.

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Notes

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    For example, if the correct response was “2 4 5 6 H”, and a child responded “2 3 4 6 H”, then the child correctly identified 3 stimuli (correct responses in bold), and incorrectly identified 2 stimuli.

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Correspondence to Mark D. Rapport.

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Kofler, M.J., Rapport, M.D., Bolden, J. et al. ADHD and Working Memory: The Impact of Central Executive Deficits and Exceeding Storage/Rehearsal Capacity on Observed Inattentive Behavior. J Abnorm Child Psychol 38, 149–161 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-009-9357-6

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Keywords

  • ADHD
  • Working memory
  • Attention
  • Central executive