Auditory and Visual Working Memory in Children with Cerebral Palsy

What is Working Memory?

Working memory is a system for temporarily storing and managing information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Working memory is involved in the selection, initiation, and termination of information-processing functions that are necessary for storing and recalling information.  These traditional working memory test can only be given to children who the ability to speak and the ability to write.  Therefore, these tests are not accessible to many children who have disabilities, including children with cerebral palsy, because answers to these tests must be given either by speaking, pointing, or writing the answer.  However, just because a child can’t speak or moves slowly, it doesn’t mean that the child cannot retain and recall information!  This study is designed to separate physical capabilities from measurement of thinking capabilities.  We do this by testing Working Memory with the use of a computer thereby eliminating the need to speak, point, or write. 

 Who can participate in the Working Memory Study?

Children, ages 6 years through 16 years/11 months with or without cerebral palsy and their parent or guardian who must be present for the child’s test appointment.  Children must be able to: consistently indicate choice (yes and no); English must be the primary language; have the ability to hear spoken instructions; be able to see a 1”x1” picture on a computer screen; have stable medical status and stable medications; and no history of an acquired brain injury (apart from the cause of the cerebral palsy).

What will my child do during the research project?

The child will participate in tests of vocabulary and working memory.  Some of these tests are standard paper/pencil/speaking tests that are typically given in either a school setting or in a clinical setting.  For children who are able to speak and write these tests will be administered in a standard format.  For those who have difficulty speaking and writing, these standard tests will be given to the child on a computer which will allow the child to take the tests by eliminating the need write and speak.  Testing will also be given on a computer where the child will see different shapes and hear different sounds and will then need to recall what he/she has seen and heard.
While the child is testing, the parent/guardian will complete surveys and questionnaires that ask questions about their child’s quality of life, family history, and the child’s history. 

How long does the testing take?

Testing will take up to 2 hours. 

Is there compensation for participating in this research study?

Yes – we are offering the child $50 for participating in this study.  A check will be mailed from the University of Michigan in 10 to 15 business days from the date of the child’s participation.

What will I learn from my child’s participation in this research?

Because this is research, there is no direct benefit for any particular child who participates in this study.  However, participating in any M-ACAL study will help researchers find ways in which to continually adapt standardized educational testing to allow ALL children - children with disabilities who have communication and motor difficulties – the ability to be tested with the same type of tests as their healthy peers.

Who should I contact?

To schedule an appointment or for questions call (734) 936-6023.  You may also e-mail this study team at
This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Rehabilitation Research and has been approved by the University of Michigan’s Institutional Review Board and committee on human subjects’ research (IRB # HUM00055681).