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Working memory and domain in DLD (Larson & Ellis Weismer, 2022)

journal contribution
posted on 2022-04-08, 17:06 authored by Caroline Larson, Susan Ellis Weismer
Purpose: This study examined working memory in children with developmental language disorder (DLD). The overarching goal of this work was to integrate three primary processing-based hypotheses of DLD, (a) limited verbal working memory, (b) slowed processing speed, and (c) inefficient inhibition of interference, by using the serial-order-in-a-box–complex span (SOB-CS) computational model as our theoretical framework. We also examined the role of domain in working memory performance by varying the domain of interference and recall (i.e., verbal vs. nonverbal) task demands.
Method: Participants were 55 school-age children, 21 children with DLD and 34 age-matched typically developing (TD) peers (9–13 years old).
Results: Findings indicated that verbal and nonverbal working memory performance was poorer in the DLD than TD group. There was a modest benefit of dispersing interference and recall task demands across domains relative to task demands being within one domain, yet verbal interference affected performance to a greater degree than nonverbal interference in the DLD group.
Conclusions: Overall findings supported a role for each of the processing-based hypotheses of DLD, albeit an incomplete role. In contrast, the SOB-CS model accounted for interrelationships among these processing-based factors and provided an explanation across patterns of findings. Thus, the SOB-CS model represents a useful step forward in explaining processing in children with DLD.

Supplemental Material S1. Additional methods.

Supplemental Material S2. Multiple imputation mixed-effects model results.

Larson, C., & Ellis Weismer, S. (2022). Working memory performance in children with developmental language disorder: The role of domain. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This research was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants F31 DC018704 (Larson, PI), T32 DC005359 (Ellis Weismer, PI), and U54 HD03352 core grant to the Waisman Center, and the American Speech-Language- Hearing Foundation New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship.