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A review of executive function deficits in autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

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      Abstract

      Executive dysfunction has been shown to be a promising endophenotype in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This article reviewed 26 studies that examined executive function comparing ASD and/or ADHD children. In light of findings from this review, the ASD + ADHD group appears to share impairment in both flexibility and planning with the ASD group, while it shares the response inhibition deficit with the ADHD group. Conversely, deficit in attention, working memory, preparatory processes, fluency, and concept formation does not appear to be distinctive in discriminating from ASD, ADHD, or ASD + ADHD group. On the basis of neurocognitive endophenotype, the common co-occurrence of executive function deficits seems to reflect an additive comorbidity, rather than a separate condition with distinct impairments.

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      Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample.

      Autism spectrum disorders are now recognized to occur in up to 1% of the population and to be a major public health concern because of their early onset, lifelong persistence, and high levels of associated impairment. Little is known about the associated psychiatric disorders that may contribute to impairment. We identify the rates and type of psychiatric comorbidity associated with ASDs and explore the associations with variables identified as risk factors for child psychiatric disorders. A subgroup of 112 ten- to 14-year old children from a population-derived cohort was assessed for other child psychiatric disorders (3 months' prevalence) through parent interview using the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment. DSM-IV diagnoses for childhood anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, oppositional defiant and conduct disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, tic disorders, trichotillomania, enuresis, and encopresis were identified. Seventy percent of participants had at least one comorbid disorder and 41% had two or more. The most common diagnoses were social anxiety disorder (29.2%, 95% confidence interval [CI)] 13.2-45.1), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (28.2%, 95% CI 13.3-43.0), and oppositional defiant disorder (28.1%, 95% CI 13.9-42.2). Of those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, 84% received a second comorbid diagnosis. There were few associations between putative risk factors and psychiatric disorder. Psychiatric disorders are common and frequently multiple in children with autism spectrum disorders. They may provide targets for intervention and should be routinely evaluated in the clinical assessment of this group.
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        Behavioral inhibition, sustained attention, and executive functions: constructing a unifying theory of ADHD.

        Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) comprises a deficit in behavioral inhibition. A theoretical model is constructed that links inhibition to 4 executive neuropsychological functions that appear to depend on it for their effective execution: (a) working memory, (b) self-regulation of affect-motivation-arousal, (c) internalization of speech, and (d) reconstitution (behavioral analysis and synthesis). Extended to ADHD, the model predicts that ADHD should be associated with secondary impairments in these 4 executive abilities and the motor control they afford. The author reviews evidence for each of these domains of functioning and finds it to be strongest for deficits in behavioral inhibition, working memory, regulation of motivation, and motor control in those with ADHD. Although the model is promising as a potential theory of self-control and ADHD, far more research is required to evaluate its merits and the many predictions it makes about ADHD.
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          Validity of the executive function theory of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analytic review.

          One of the most prominent neuropsychologic theories of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) suggests that its symptoms arise from a primary deficit in executive functions (EF), defined as neurocognitive processes that maintain an appropriate problem-solving set to attain a later goal. To examine the validity of the EF theory, we conducted a meta-analysis of 83 studies that administered EF measures to groups with ADHD (total N = 3734) and without ADHD (N = 2969). Groups with ADHD exhibited significant impairment on all EF tasks. Effect sizes for all measures fell in the medium range (.46-.69), but the strongest and most consistent effects were obtained on measures of response inhibition, vigilance, working memory, and planning. Weaknesses in EF were significant in both clinic-referred and community samples and were not explained by group differences in intelligence, academic achievement, or symptoms of other disorders. ADHD is associated with significant weaknesses in several key EF domains. However, moderate effect sizes and lack of universality of EF deficits among individuals with ADHD suggest that EF weaknesses are neither necessary nor sufficient to cause all cases of ADHD. Difficulties with EF appear to be one important component of the complex neuropsychology of ADHD.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Child Neuropsychiatry Unit, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neuroscience and Sense Organs, University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, Bari, Italy
            [2 ]Psychiatry Unit, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neuroscience and Sense Organs, University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, Bari, Italy
            Author notes
            Correspondence: Lucia Margari, Child Neuropsychiatry Unit, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neuroscience and Sense Organs, University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, Piazza Giulio Cesare, 11, 70124 Bari, Italy, Tel +39 80 559 2829, Fax +39 80 559 5260, Email lucia.margari@ 123456uniba.it
            Journal
            Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat
            Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat
            Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
            Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
            Dove Medical Press
            1176-6328
            1178-2021
            2016
            12 May 2016
            : 12
            : 1191-1202
            27274255
            4869784
            10.2147/NDT.S104620
            ndt-12-1191
            © 2016 Craig et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

            The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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