Verbal memory performance in adolescents and adults with ADHD

A.D. Pawley, J.S. Mayer, J. Medda, G.A. Brandt, J.C. Agnew-Blais, P. Asherson, A.-S. Rommel, J.A. Ramos-Quiroga, J. Palacio sanchez, D. Bergsma, J.K. Buitelaar, F.B. Ortega, A. Muntaner-Mas, O. Grimm, A. Reif, C.M. Freitag, J. Kuntsi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beyond well-established difficulties with working memory in individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), evidence is emerging that other memory processes may also be affected. We investigated, first, which memory processes show differences in adults and adolescents with ADHD in comparison to control participants, focusing on working and short-term memory, initial learning, interference, delayed and recognition memory. Second, we investigated whether ADHD severity, co-occurring depressive symptoms, IQ and physical fitness are associated with the memory performance in the individuals with ADHD.

We assessed 205 participants with ADHD (mean age 25.8 years, SD 7.99) and 50 control participants (mean age 21.1 years, SD 5.07) on cognitive tasks including the digit span forward (DSF) and backward (DSB), the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), and the vocabulary and matrix reasoning subtests of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence. Participants with ADHD were additionally assessed on ADHD severity, depression symptoms and cardiorespiratory fitness. A series of regressions were run, with sensitivity analyses performed when variables were skewed.

ADHD-control comparisons were significant for DSF, DSB, delayed and recognition memory, with people with ADHD performing less well than the control participants. The result for recognition memory was no longer significant in sensitivity analysis. Memory performance was not associated with greater ADHD or depression symptoms severity. IQ was positively associated with all memory variables except DSF. Cardiorespiratory fitness was negatively associated with the majority of RAVLT variables.

Individuals with ADHD showed difficulties with working memory, short-term memory and delayed memory, as well as a potential difficulty with recognition memory, despite preserved initial learning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103941
JournalNeuroscience Applied
Early online date7 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Feb 2024


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