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A comparison of simultaneous and sequential visuo-spatial memory in children born very preterm

Retzler, Jenny; Johnson, Samantha; Groom, Madeleine J.; Cragg, Lucy

A comparison of simultaneous and sequential visuo-spatial memory in children born very preterm Thumbnail


Jenny Retzler

Samantha Johnson

Professor of Developmental Psychology


Research suggests that children born very preterm (≤32weeks’ gestation) are at greater risk of impairments in information processing (particularly when information is presented simultaneously rather than sequentially) and visuo-spatial short-term and working memory relative to children born at term. This study compared the performance of children born very preterm with their term-born peers to elucidate the nature of group differences in these areas. 113 children (65 very preterm; 48 term-born) aged 8-to-11years completed four visuo-spatial recall tasks. Tasks varied by presentation type (simultaneous or sequential) and memory type (short-term or working memory). Both groups recalled more locations in simultaneous than sequential tasks, and in short-term than working memory tasks. In short-term memory tasks, children born at term recalled more locations than children born very preterm for the sequential task, but groups did not differ on the simultaneous task. The opposite pattern was observed in the working memory tasks, with no group differences on the sequential task, but better performance on the simultaneous task for children born at term. Our findings indicate that simultaneous processing may not be impaired in children born very preterm per se, with poorer performance observed only under high cognitive demand. This interaction suggests very preterm birth may affect the level of cognitive resources available during feature integration, the consequences of which become apparent when resources are already stretched. The impact of interactions with cognitive demand in this population should be an important consideration for educational support strategies, and for assessment in research and clinic.


Retzler, J., Johnson, S., Groom, M. J., & Cragg, L. (2021). A comparison of simultaneous and sequential visuo-spatial memory in children born very preterm. Child Neuropsychology, 28(4), 496-509.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 11, 2021
Online Publication Date Oct 31, 2021
Publication Date Oct 31, 2021
Deposit Date Oct 14, 2021
Publicly Available Date Nov 1, 2022
Journal Child Neuropsychology
Print ISSN 0929-7049
Electronic ISSN 1744-4136
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 4
Pages 496-509
Keywords Developmental and Educational Psychology; Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology; Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:; Received: 2021-01-21; Accepted: 2021-10-11; Published: 2021-10-31


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