Memory and selective learning in children with spina bifida-myelomeningocele and shunted hydrocephalus: A preliminary study

Behroze Vachha, Richard C. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Selective learning is the ability to select items of relevance from among less important items. Limited evidence exists regarding the efficiency with which children with spina bifida-myelomeningocele and shunted hydrocephalus (SB/SH) are able to learn information. This report describes initial data related to components of learning and metacognitive skills in children with SB/SH. Methods: Twenty six children with SB/SH and 26 controls (age: 7-16 y) with average intelligence, and monolingual English-speaking backgrounds participated in the study. Exclusion criteria for the SB/SH group were: prior history of shunt infection, history of seizure or shunt malfunction within the previous three months, prior diagnoses of attention disorders and/or clinical depression. Children were presented lists of words with equal exemplars each of two distinct semantic categories (e.g. fruits, animals), and told to make as high a score as possible by learning the words. The value of the words was designated by category membership (e.g. animals = low value; fruits = high value). The total number of words learned across three learning trials was used to determine memory span. Selective learning efficiency (SLE) was computed as the efficiency with which items of greater value were selectively learned across three trials. Results: Children with SB/SH did worse than controls on memory span (P < 0.05). Although SLE was not significantly different between groups, when asked what strategy was used in the selective learning tasks, 65% of the SB/SH children said they tried to remember all words (inefficient strategy). In contrast, 85% of controls said they tried to remember the higher value words - the more efficient strategy. Conclusion: Success in school is often dependent on the ability to recall important facts selectively and ignore less important information. Children with SB/SH in our study had a poor memory span and were unable to monitor and report an efficient and workable metacognitive strategy required to remember a list of words. Preliminary findings may begin to explain our previous clinical and research findings wherein children with SB/SH often focus on extraneous details, but demonstrate difficulty remembering the main gist of a story/event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
JournalCerebrospinal Fluid Research
StatePublished - Nov 17 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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