Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine working memory for sequences of auditory and visual stimuli in prelingually deafened pediatric cochlear implant users with at least 4 yr of device experience. Design: Two groups of 8- and 9-yr-old children, 45 normal-hearing and 45 hearing-impaired users of cochlear implants, completed a novel working memory task requiring memory for sequences of either visual-spatial cues or visual-spatial cues paired with auditory signals. In each sequence, colored response buttons were illuminated either with or without simultaneous auditory presentation of verbal labels (color-names or digit-names). The child was required to reproduce each sequence by pressing the appropriate buttons on the response box. Sequence length was varied and a measure of memory span corresponding to the longest list length correctly reproduced under each set of presentation conditions was recorded. Additional children completed a modified task that eliminated the visual-spatial light cues but that still required reproduction of auditory color-name sequences using the same response box. Data from 37 pediatric cochlear implant users were collected using this modified task. Results: The cochlear implant group obtained shorter span scores on average than the normal-hearing group, regardless of presentation format. The normal-hearing children also demonstrated a larger "redundancy gain" than children in the cochlear implant group-that is, the normal-hearing group displayed better memory for auditory-plus-lights sequences than for the lights-only sequences. Although the children with cochlear implants did not use the auditory signals as effectively as normal-hearing children when visual-spatial cues were also available, their performance on the modified memory task using only auditory cues showed that some of the children were capable of encoding auditory-only sequences at a level comparable with normal-hearing children. Conclusions: The finding of smaller redundancy gains from the addition of auditory cues to visual-spatial sequences in the cochlear implant group as compared with the normal-hearing group demonstrates differences in encoding or rehearsal strategies between these two groups of children. Differences in memory span between the two groups even on a visual-spatial memory task suggests that atypical working memory development irrespective of input modality may be present in this clinical population.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Speech and Hearing