Evidence for a specific impairment of serial order short-term memory in dyslexic children

Trecy Martinez Perez, Steve Majerus, Aline Mahot, Martine Poncelet
Dyslexia: the Journal of the British Dyslexia Association 2012, 18 (2): 94-109
In order to better understand the nature of verbal short-term memory (STM) deficits in dyslexic children, the present study used the distinction between item and serial order retention capacities in STM tasks. According to recent STM models, storage of verbal item information depends very directly upon the richness of underlying phonological and semantic representations. On the other hand, storage of serial order information appears to reflect a language-independent system. Hence, if there is a fundamental STM deficit in dyslexia that is not to be explained only by the poor phonological processing abilities that characterize dyslexia, then difficulties in serial order STM should also be observed in dyslexic children. We administered tasks maximizing either serial order or item retention capacities to dyslexic children and reading age (RA) and chronological age (CA) matched controls. Dyslexic children performed significantly poorer than the CA controls on the item STM measure. Furthermore, the dyslexic group obtained inferior performance than both CA and RA control groups on the serial order STM measure. These findings highlight a severe impairment of STM for serial order information in dyslexia that cannot be reduced to a phonological processing impairment. Implications of serial order retention deficits for reading acquisition and dyslexia are discussed.

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