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Specificity of executive function and theory of mind performance in relation to attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms in autism spectrum disorders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number60
JournalMolecular Autism
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Accepted/In press31 Oct 2017
Published9 Nov 2017

Documents

  • Specificity of Executive Function and_LUKITO_Accepted31Ocotber2017_GOLD AAM

    Specificity_of_Executive_Function_and_LUKITO_Accepted31Ocotber2017_GOLD_AAM.pdf, 589 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:10 Nov 2017

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

    Licence:CC BY

  • Specificity of executive funtion_LUKITO_Published9November2017_GOLD VoR (CC BY)

    Specificity_of_executive_funtion_LUKITO_Published9November2017_GOLD_VoR_CC_BY_.pdf, 678 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:20 Dec 2017

    Version:Final published version

    Licence:CC BY

    © The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
    International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
    reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to
    the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver
    (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

King's Authors

Abstract

Background

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently demonstrate symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Previous findings in children with ASD have suggested that these symptoms are associated with an impairment in executive function (EF) abilities. However, studies rarely considered this association within a single framework that controls for other related factors such as Theory of Mind (ToM) abilities and ASD symptoms.

Methods
We used structural equation modeling to explore the relations among EF, ToM, and symptoms of ASD and ADHD, using data from a population-based sample of 100 adolescents with ASD and full-scale IQ ≥ 50 (the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP) cohort). The study used a multi-measure and multi-informant approach, where performance of inhibition, planning, switching, and working memory tasks indexed EF and performance on tasks involving mentalizing indexed ToM. Measures of ASD and ADHD symptoms included parent and teacher reports and direct observation of the children. Shared source of symptom reporting was accounted for with a parental rating latent factor indexed by symptom measures reported by parents.

Results
Impairments in EF abilities were specifically associated with ADHD symptoms while impaired ToM was specifically associated with ASD symptoms, when accounting for the associations of each cognitive domain with the other factors. ASD and ADHD symptom latent factors were also correlated, but this association became nonsignificant once the shared source of reporting from parents was accounted for and within a model that also controlled for the correlated pathway between EF and ToM factors. The specific relations between the cognitive domains and behavioral symptoms remained even after controlling for IQ.

Conclusions
In this ASD sample, symptoms of ADHD and ASD are underpinned by separate cognitive domains. The association between EF and ToM impairments is a likely partial explanation for the co-occurrence of ADHD symptoms in ASD, but the role of shared reporting effects is also important and supports the inclusion of independent informants and objective measures in future research.

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