Working memory and executive function profiles of individuals with borderline intellectual functioning

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2010 May;54(5):448-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01281.x.


Background: The aim of the present study was to investigate the following issues: (1) Do students with borderline intellectual functioning have a pervasive pattern of impaired working memory skills across both verbal and visuo-spatial domains? (2) Is there evidence for impairment in executive function skills, and which tasks indicate greater deficits? and (3) Which executive function tasks can effectively identify students with low IQ from typically developing peers?

Method: Students with borderline intellectual functioning (low-IQ; IQ standard scores were between 70 and 85) were age-matched with typically developing students (IQ standard scores >95). They were administered a range of working memory and executive function measures.

Results: The results show that students with low IQ have pervasive working memory and executive function deficits. Specifically, visuo-spatial working memory and the Sorting task were the best single predictors that reliably classified students with low IQ.

Conclusions: Implications for education are discussed in the context of appropriate diagnosis and support in the classroom.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Intellectual Disability / diagnosis*
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology*
  • Intelligence*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Reference Values
  • Stroop Test
  • Verbal Learning