Working memory in childhood-onset schizophrenia and attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Canan Karatekin, Robert F. Asarnow

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We investigated verbal and spatial working memory in participants with childhood-onset schizophrenia (N = 13), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; N = 31) and age-matched normal children (N = 27). The ages of the participants ranged from 9 to 20 years, with an average age of approx. 14 in all groups. Diagnoses were based on structured interviews (Kiddie- Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia) with the children and their parents and made using DSM-III-R criteria. Verbal working memory was assessed by the highest number of digits recalled in forward and backward order on the Digit Span subtest of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. Results showed that normal children recalled more digits than schizophrenic and ADHD children, who did not differ. Spatial working memory was assessed with the Dot Test of Visuospatial Working Memory: The children were presented with a dot on a page for 5 s and asked to mark its location on a blank page immediately after presentation or 30 s later. A distracter task was used during the delay to prevent verbal rehearsal. The average distance between the target dot and the child's mark in the 30-s condition was shorter for normal than for schizophrenic and ADHD children, who did not differ. Thus, both schizophrenic and ADHD children showed deficits in verbal and spatial working memory. These results suggest that in both disorders, the capacity of the sensory buffers may be diminished, and/or the availability and allocation of resources to the central executive may be limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-176
Number of pages12
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 17 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the parents and the children who participated in the study. We also thank Dr Keefe for providing the stimuli for the Dot Test of Visuospatial Memory. This research was supported in part by grants to Robert F. Asarnow, Ph.D., from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH 45112), the Stanley Foundation, and the Della Martin Foundation. Dr Karatekin was supported by the Della Martin Foundation in writing this manuscript.


  • Adolescence
  • Child
  • Spatial behavior
  • Verbal behavior


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