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See detailSerial order working memory is impaired in developmental dyscalculia
Attout, Lucie ULg

Conference (2013, September 21)

Several studies explored associations between impairments in verbal working memory (WM) and numerical cognition, but with inconclusive findings. The present study explored verbal WM impairment in children ... [more ▼]

Several studies explored associations between impairments in verbal working memory (WM) and numerical cognition, but with inconclusive findings. The present study explored verbal WM impairment in children with developmental dyscalculia, by adopting the critical distinction between WM for item information (the items to be retained) and WM for order information (the order of the items within a list). We hypothesized that especially WM for order should be related to impaired numerical abilities, given that recent studies suggest close interactions between the representation of order information in WM and ordinal numerical processing. We investigated item and order WM capacities as well as basic numerical processing abilities in 16 children with dyscalculia (age: 8-11 years) and 16 typically developing children matched on age, IQ and reading abilities. WM for order information was assessed via a serial order reconstruction task which maximized serial order storage requirements. WM for item information was assessed using a single monosyllabic nonword delayed repetition maximizing phonological item processing. We observed that the group with dyscalculia performed significantly slower than the control group in symbolic order and magnitude judgment task, while not being slowed on general measures of processing speed. Dyscalculic participants also performed significantly poorer and with less precision than controls in the order WM task, but not in the item WM task. These results highlight a specific impairment for WM for serial order in dyscalculia, and could reflect a more general serial order processing impairment for both WM and numerical domains. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Importance of Encoding-Related Neural Dynamics in the Prediction of Inter-Individual Differences in Verbal Working Memory Performance
Majerus, Steve ULg; Salmon, Eric ULg; Attout, Lucie ULg

in PLoS ONE (2013), 8(7),

Studies of brain-behaviour interactions in the field of working memory (WM) have associated WM success with activation of a fronto-parietal network during the maintenance stage, and this mainly for visuo ... [more ▼]

Studies of brain-behaviour interactions in the field of working memory (WM) have associated WM success with activation of a fronto-parietal network during the maintenance stage, and this mainly for visuo-spatial WM. Using an inter-individual differences approach, we demonstrate here the equal importance of neural dynamics during the encoding stage, and this in the context of verbal WM tasks which are characterized by encoding phases of long duration and sustained attentional demands. Participants encoded and maintained 5-word lists, half of them containing an unexpected word intended to disturb WM encoding and associated task-related attention processes. We observed that inter-individual differences in WM performance for lists containing disturbing stimuli were related to activation levels in a region previously associated with task-related attentional processing, the left intraparietal sulcus (IPS), and this during stimulus encoding but not maintenance; functional connectivity strength between the left IPS and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) further predicted WM performance. This study highlights the critical role, during WM encoding, of neural substrates involved in task-related attentional processes for predicting inter-individual differences in verbal WM performance, and, more generally, provides support for attention-based models of WM. © 2013 Majerus et al. [less ▲]

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See detailDo common principles underlie the representation of order in STM and numerical judgment tasks?
Attout, Lucie ULg; Majerus, Steve ULg

Conference (2012, March 29)

Although many studies have explored magnitude effects in numerical cognition, the representation of order information has received only limited interest. We explored the hypothesis that common abstract ... [more ▼]

Although many studies have explored magnitude effects in numerical cognition, the representation of order information has received only limited interest. We explored the hypothesis that common abstract ordinal representations underlie the representation of order information across different domains. We tested this hypothesis by determining the similarity of distance effects in short-term memory (STM) order probe recognition (did ‘8’ occur before ‘5’ in the list ‘3, 6, 5, 4, 8, 7’ presented a few seconds ago?) and in order judgment tasks (does ‘1’ occur before ‘2’), both numerical and alphabetical stimuli were used. In numerical cognition, adjacent numbers are typically judged more slowly than more distant numbers. In fifty healthy adults, we observed significant distance effects across all tasks: in the order judgment tasks, adjacent numbers/letters were judged more slowly than more distant numbers/letters; in the STM tasks, order recognition was slowed for stimuli stemming from adjacent positions in the STM list as compared to stimuli stemming from more distant positions. Regression slopes for distance effects were identical across the different tasks and conditions. Furthermore, the size of distance effects correlated significantly across tasks, except for the order judgment task with numerical stimuli. We will discuss the implications of these results for a hypothetical common representational system of order information in STM and numerical cognition. [less ▲]

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See detailDISSOCIATING SHORT-TERM MEMORY AND LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENT: THE IMPORTANCE OF ITEM AND SERIAL ORDER INFORMATION
Attout, Lucie ULg; VAN DER KAA, Marie-Anne ULg; GEORGE, Mercédès ULg et al

in Aphasiology (2012), 26(3-4), 355-382

BACKGROUND: Selective verbal short-term memory (STM) deficits are rare, and when they appear, they are often associated with a history of aphasia, raising doubts about the selectivity of these deficits ... [more ▼]

BACKGROUND: Selective verbal short-term memory (STM) deficits are rare, and when they appear, they are often associated with a history of aphasia, raising doubts about the selectivity of these deficits. Recent models of STM consider that STM for item information depends upon activation of the language system, and hence item STM deficits should be associated with language impairment. By contrast, STM for order information is considered to recruit a specific system, distinct from the language system: this system could be impaired in patients with language-independent STM deficits. AIM: We demonstrate here the power of the item-order distinction to separate STM and language impairments in two brain damaged cases with STM impairment and a history of aphasia. METHODS & PROCEDURES: Recognition and recall STM tasks, maximizing STM for either item or order information were administered to patients MB and CG. OUTCOMES & RESULTS: Patient MB showed mild phonological impairment. As predicted, associated STM deficits were characterized by poor item STM but preserved order STM. On the other hand, patient CG showed no residual language deficits. His STM deficit was characterized by poor order STM but perfectly preserved item STM. CONCLUSIONS: This study presents the first double dissociation between item and order STM deficits, and demonstrates the necessity of this distinction for understanding and assessing STM impairment in patients with and without aphasia. [less ▲]

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See detailAn association between short-term memory for order and numerical cognition in 3rd grade kindergarten children.
Attout, Lucie ULg; Majerus, Steve ULg

Conference (2012, February)

Several studies explored the relationship between verbal short-term memory (STM) and numerical cognition, but with inconclusive findings. The present study re-explored this relationship, by adopting the ... [more ▼]

Several studies explored the relationship between verbal short-term memory (STM) and numerical cognition, but with inconclusive findings. The present study re-explored this relationship, by adopting the critical distinction between STM for item information (the items to be retained) and STM for order information (the order of the items within a list). We hypothesized that especially STM for order should be related to the development of numerical abilities, given that recent studies suggest the intervention of common processes during the representation of order information in STM and numerical tasks. We investigated item and order STM abilities and numerical processing abilities in 72 children during their third year in kindergarten. We observed that order STM abilities, but not item STM abilities, correlated significantly with performance on numerical order judgment and calculation tasks. These associations remained after control of interindividual differences in verbal and non-verbal cognitive efficiency. Our results suggest a specific relationship between order STM processes and numerical cognition, opening new perspectives for our understanding of the STM determinants of numerical cognition development. [less ▲]

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See detailAttention Supports Verbal Short-Term Memory via Competition between Dorsal and Ventral Attention Networks.
Majerus, Steve ULg; Attout, Lucie ULg; D'Argembeau, Arnaud ULg et al

in Cerebral Cortex (2012), 22

Interactions between the neural correlates of short-term memory (STM) and attention have been actively studied in the visual STM domain but much less in the verbal STM domain. Here we show that the same ... [more ▼]

Interactions between the neural correlates of short-term memory (STM) and attention have been actively studied in the visual STM domain but much less in the verbal STM domain. Here we show that the same attention mechanisms that have been shown to shape the neural networks of visual STM also shape those of verbal STM. Based on previous research in visual STM, we contrasted the involvement of a dorsal attention network centered on the intraparietal sulcus supporting task-related attention and a ventral attention network centered on the temporoparietal junction supporting stimulus-related attention. We observed that, with increasing STM load, the dorsal attention network was activated while the ventral attention network was deactivated, especially during early maintenance. Importantly, activation in the ventral attention network increased in response to task-irrelevant stimuli briefly presented during the maintenance phase of the STM trials but only during low-load STM conditions, which were associated with the lowest levels of activity in the dorsal attention network during encoding and early maintenance. By demonstrating a trade-off between task-related and stimulus-related attention networks during verbal STM, this study highlights the dynamics of attentional processes involved in verbal STM. [less ▲]

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See detailThe importance of distinguishing item and order memory for understanding short-term memory deficits in brain-damaged patients
Attout, Lucie ULg; VAN DER KAA, Marie-Anne ULg; GEORGE, Mercédès ULg et al

Poster (2011, October 18)

Selective verbal short-term memory (STM) deficits are rare and are often associated with a history of aphasia, raising doubts about the selectivity of these deficits. We explore here the distinction ... [more ▼]

Selective verbal short-term memory (STM) deficits are rare and are often associated with a history of aphasia, raising doubts about the selectivity of these deficits. We explore here the distinction between STM for item information (the items and their phonological and semantic characteristics) and STM for order information (the order of items within a list) to separate STM and language impairment. Recent models of STM consider that STM for item information depends upon activation of the language system, and hence item STM deficits should be associated with language impairment. By contrast, STM for order information is considered to recruit a specific system, distinct from the language system. Hence, order STM should be impaired in patients with language-independent STM deficits. We applied this rationale to the exploration of STM profiles of two patients with a history of aphasia, MB and CG. At the time of this study, patient MB showed poor digit and word STM spans associated with a mild impairment at the level of phonological input processing. Patient CG showed poor STM spans with no residual language impairment. A first experiment assessed STM for order and item information, using order and item probe recognition tasks. Patient MB showed severely impaired performance in the item condition (Z=-4.71; p<.001) but a milder deficit in the order condition (Z=-2.17; p<.05). CG on the other hand showed perfectly preserved performance for the item condition (Z=-0.43) but significantly slowed response times for the order condition (Z=-2.20; p<.05). In a second experiment determining item and order error proportions in an immediate serial recall task for six-word lists, MB showed a significantly increased proportion of item errors (Z=-3.24 and -2.6 for positions 5 and 6, respectively; p<.05) but not of order errors (Z=-1.47), while CG showed perfectly preserved item recall (Z=0.22) but an increase of order errors especially in final list positions (Z =-2.57 for position 6; p<.05). A third experiment assessed reconstruction of serial order for digit lists showing perfectly preserved performance in patient MB (Z=1.32) but severely impaired performance in patient CG (Z=-3.49; p<.05). A final experiment assessed new word learning performance, given that STM for order has been shown to be a critical determinant of vocabulary acquisition in children and adults. CG showed impaired new word learning performance in a paired associate word-new word learning experiment (Z=-3.29; p<.05) but not in a word-word learning control experiment (Z=0.13), while MB showed a more general verbal learning impairment (word-nonword: Z=-3.09, p<.05; word-word: Z=-4.8, p<.05). This study provides the first demonstration of a dissociation between STM for order and STM for item information in patients with a history of aphasia, and further shows that patients with residual language impairment are more likely to present impaired STM for item information which is considered to depend on the integrity of the language system. Order STM deficits on the other hand may represent what is commonly referred to as selective STM impairment, highlighting the importance of distinguishing between item and order STM processes when exploring STM deficits in aphasic patients. [less ▲]

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See detailThe importance of short-term memory for order in dissociating short-term memory and language deficits
Attout, Lucie ULg; VAN DER KAA, Marie-Anne ULg; GEORGE, Mercédès ULg et al

Poster (2011, May 27)

Selective verbal short-term memory (STM) deficits are rare, and when they appear, they are often associated with a history of aphasia, raising doubts about the selectivity of these deficits. We explore ... [more ▼]

Selective verbal short-term memory (STM) deficits are rare, and when they appear, they are often associated with a history of aphasia, raising doubts about the selectivity of these deficits. We explore here the distinction between STM for item information and STM for order information to separate STM and language impairments. Recent models of STM consider that STM for item information depends upon activation of the language system, and hence item STM deficits should be associated with language impairment. By contrast, STM for order information is considered to recruit a specific system, distinct from the language system. In this view, order STM should be impaired in patients with STM deficits that cannot be accounted for by language impairment. We applied this rationale to the exploration of STM profiles of patients MB and CG. Patient MB showed mild phonological impairment and associated STM deficits. As predicted, these were characterized by poor item STM but preserved order STM. Patient CG showed verbal STM deficits with no associated language deficits. His STM deficit was characterized by poor order STM but relatively preserved item STM. This study presents the first double dissociation between item and order STM deficits, demonstrating the necessity of this distinction for understanding selective STM impairment. [less ▲]

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