Memory and Inattentive ADHD

Reward based behavior modification works better to improve the memory of students with Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI) than it does to help memory in students with combined type ADHD (ADHD-C) and Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD (ADHD-HI). Researchers do not yet understand why this is so but a new study published in the September edition of Neuropsychology sheds some light on this phenomena.

The researchers gave 6-9 years olds items to remember and told them that they were going to play a memory game. The object of the game was to remember as many items as possible but the strategy of this memory game involved knowing and acting on the fact that remembering that some of the items were worth more than other itmes. To get the highest number of points you not only had to remember items but you had to choose to remember more high value items.

The results showed that there were no significant differences in the number of words that the children remembered and all the children in the study recalled more high-value items than low-value items but children with ADHD Combined type did not remember to give more priority to the high value items while the children with ADHD-PI and the children without ADHD did.  The researchers reported that children with ADHD-C did not "efficiently maximize memory performance relative to children with ADHD Inattentive type and healthy controls, who did not differ significantly from one another."

Children with Inattentive ADHD were able to be motivated to efficiently maximize memory performance. This same motivation (getting a high game score) did not change the ability of children with ADHD-C to maximize memory performance. These study findings point to the fact that the memory function of people with Inattentive ADHD is different than the memory function of people with ADHD combined type.

It is unclear if the impulsive trait in ADHD-C influences memory, if hyperactivity plays a role in memory, if organizationally or if chemically the part of the brain that controls memory of the subtypes of ADHD are different of if memory behavior is too complex to understand all the influences that may be affecting it.

From a practical stand point what this study shows is that, for children with Inattentive ADHD, what the researchers of this study called "value directed remembering" is the same as it is for children without ADHD. Being motivated to remember something brings their memory capacity to normal levels. This is important because if we can find the appropriate motivation, we can improve the memory capacity of these kids.

Faulty memory is just a small piece of the brain differences that are seen in people with ADHD-PI, this study gives us more information on how these brain differences may be remedied. I am certain that further research will allow us to better understand the other brain differences that affect the problems of people with Inattentive ADHD and will give us more insight into how the Inattentive subtype of ADHD differs from the other ADHD subtypes.

Memory capacity, selective control, and value-directed remembering in children with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (adhd). Castel AD, Lee SS, Humphreys KL, Moore AN. Neuropsychology. 2010 Sep 27.

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