Testing the specificity of executive functioning impairments in adolescents with ADHD, ODD/CD and ASD

Virginia Carter Leno*, Susie Chandler, Pippa White, Andrew Pickles, Gillian Baird, Chris Hobson, Anna B. Smith, Tony Charman, Katya Rubia, Emily Simonoff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
291 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Current diagnostic systems conceptualise attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant/conduct disorder (ODD/CD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as separate diagnoses. However, all three demonstrate executive functioning (EF) impairments. Whether these impairments are trans-diagnostic or disorder-specific remains relatively unexplored. Four groups of 10–16 year-olds [typically developing (TD; N = 43), individuals clinically diagnosed with ADHD (N = 21), ODD/CD (N = 26) and ASD (N = 41)] completed Go/NoGo and Switch tasks. Group differences were tested using analysis of co-variance (ANCOVA) including age, IQ, sex, conduct problems and ADHD symptoms as co-variates. Results indicated some disorder-specificity as only the ASD group demonstrated decreased probability of inhibition in the Go/NoGo task compared to all other groups. However, shared impairments were also found; all three diagnostic groups demonstrated increased reaction time variability (RTV) compared to the TD group, and both the ODD/CD and the ASD group demonstrated increased premature responses. When controlling for ADHD symptoms and conduct problems, group differences in RTV were no longer significant; however, the ASD group continued to demonstrate increased premature responses. No group differences were found in cognitive flexibility in the Switch task. A more varied response style was present across all clinical groups, although this appeared to be accounted for by sub-threshold ODD/CD and ADHD symptoms. Only the ASD group was impaired in response inhibition and premature responsiveness relative to TD adolescents. The findings suggest that some EF impairments typically associated with ADHD may also be found in individuals with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899–908
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean child & adolescent psychiatry
Volume27
Issue number7
Early online date9 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Keywords

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cognition
  • Conduct disorder
  • Executive functioning

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