Down syndrome (DS) is associated with a specific verbal short-term memory (STM) deficit. This study explored the effects of grouping, semantic relations and visual presentation upon verbal STM recall performance in a group of 15 individuals with DS and 15 vocabulary-matched typically developing (TD) children. Participants were presented with memoranda in either a temporally grouped schedule, such that items were grouped as pairs, or in an equally spaced presentation schedule. The two items constituting each pair were either semantically related or unrelated. Performance across these conditions was compared in verbal or verbal plus visual presentation modes. Significant memory recall benefits were observed across populations as a result of temporal grouping, semantic relations and verbal and visual combined presentation. However, a reduced benefit of semantic relation in the DS group compared to the TD group indicated that those with DS were less influenced by LTM relational knowledge. In addition, those with DS only experienced a grouping benefit during verbal and visual combined presentation, in contrast to the TD group who experienced grouping benefits throughout. This indicates that individuals with DS are poorer at encoding temporal context for purely verbal memoranda. These findings were replicated in a follow-up experiment, aimed at aligning baseline performance in the two populations. This study provides encouraging evidence that, despite their difficulties in some areas, individuals with DS can benefit from the use of grouping and LTM knowledge to assist their verbal STM performance under certain circumstances.
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- Short-term memory
- Semantic relation
- Down syndrome