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Psychol Med. 2009 Aug;39(8):1337-45. doi: 10.1017/S0033291708004236. Epub 2008 Aug 20.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): gender- and age-related differences in neurocognition.

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  • 1Semmelweis University, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Budapest, Balissa u.6, Hungary.



Despite the growing recognition that the clinical symptom characteristics associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) persist into adulthood in a high proportion of subjects, little is known about the persistence of neurocognitive deficits in ADHD. The objective was twofold: (1) to conduct a meta-analysis of neuropsychological studies to characterize attentional performance in subjects with adult ADHD by examining differences in ADHD versus normal control subjects; and (2) to investigate whether these differences vary as a function of age and gender.


Twenty-five neuropsychological studies comparing subjects with adult ADHD and healthy controls were evaluated. Statistical effect size was determined to characterize the difference between ADHD and control subjects. Meta-regression analysis was applied to investigate whether the difference between ADHD and control subjects varied as a function of age and gender across studies.


Tests measuring focused and sustained attention yielded an effect size with medium to large magnitude whereas tests of simple attention resulted in a small to medium effect size in terms of poorer attention functioning of ADHD subjects versus controls. On some of the measures (e.g. Stroop interference), a lower level of attention functioning in the ADHD group versus the controls was associated with male gender.


Adult ADHD subjects display significantly poorer functioning versus healthy controls on complex but not on simple tasks of attention, and the degree of impairment varies with gender, with males displaying a higher level of impairment.

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