The extent of working memory deficits associated with Williams syndrome: exploration of verbal and spatial domains and executively controlled processes

Sinead M. Rhodes, Deborah M. Riby, Emma Fraser, Lorna Elise Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The present study investigated verbal and spatial working memory (WM) functioning in individuals with the neuro-developmental disorder Williams syndrome (WS) using WM component tasks. While there is strong evidence of WM impairments in WS, previous research has focused on short-term memory and has neglected assessment of executive components of WM. There is a particular lack of consensus concerning the profile of verbal WM functioning in WS. Here, WS participants were compared to typically developing participants matched for (1) verbal ability and (2) spatial ability (N = 14 in each of the 3 groups). Individuals with WS were impaired on verbal WM tasks, both those involving short-term maintenance of information and executive manipulation, in comparison to verbal-matched controls. Surprisingly, individuals with WS were not impaired on a spatial task assessing short-term maintenance of information in memory (remembering spatial locations) compared to spatial-matched controls. They were, however, impaired on a spatial executive WM task requiring the manipulation of spatial information in memory. The present study suggests that individuals with WS show WM impairments that extend to both verbal and spatial domains, although spatial deficits are selective to executive aspects of WM function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-214
Number of pages7
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sep 2011
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • Williams syndrome
  • memory deficits
  • working memory
  • verbal control
  • spatial control
  • language

Cite this