Objectives: The context of memory experiences is referred to as source memory and can be distinguished from the content of episodic item memory. Source memory represents a crucial part of biographic events and elaborate memory experiences. Whereas individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were shown to have inefficient item memory, little is known about the context of memory experiences.
Methods: The present study compared 37 adult patients with a diagnosed ADHD with 40 matched healthy participants on a word list paradigm. Memory functions of encoding, retention and source discrimination were assessed. Furthermore, standardized measures of memory and executive control were applied in order to explore a qualitative differentiation of memory components.
Results: Adult patients with ADHD showed impaired performance in encoding of new information whereas the retention of encoded items was found to be preserved. The most pronounced impairment of patients with ADHD was observed in source discrimination. Regression models of cognitive functions on memory components supported some qualitative differentiation.
Conclusions: Data analysis suggests a differential pattern of memory impairment in adults suffering from ADHD with a particular deficit in source discrimination. Inefficient source discrimination in adults with ADHD can affect daily functioning by limiting biographic awareness and disturbing general cognitive processes.