Short-term memory in Down syndrome: applying the working memory model

C Jarrold, Alan Baddeley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is divided into three sections. The first reviews the evidence for a verbal short-term memory deficit in Down syndrome. Existing research suggests that short-term memory for verbal information tends to be impaired in Down syndrome, in contrast to short-term memory for visual and spatial material. In addition, problems of hearing or speech do not appear to be a major cause of difficulties on tests of verbal short-term memory. This suggests that Down syndrome is associated with a specific memory problem, which we link to a potential deficit in the functioning of the 'phonological loop' of Baddeley's (1986) model of working memory. The second section considers the implications of a phonological loop problem. Because a reasonable amount is known about the normal functioning of the phonological loop, and of its role in language acquisition in typical development, we can make firm predictions as to the likely nature of the short-term memory problem in Down syndrome, and its consequences for language learning. However, we note that the existing evidence from studies with individuals with Down syndrome does not fit well with these predictions. This leads to the third section of the paper, in which we consider key questions to be addressed in future research. We suggest that there are two questions to be answered, which follow directly from the contradictory results outlined in the previous section. These are 'What is the precise nature of the verbal short-term memory deficit in Down syndrome', and 'What are the consequences of this deficit for learning'. We discuss ways in which these questions might be addressed in future work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalDown's syndrome, research and practice : the journal of the Sarah Duffen Centre / University of Portsmouth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Down Syndrome
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index

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