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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Jun;931:396-408.

Adult ADHD. Concluding thoughts.

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  • 1Office of Disability Services and Department of Psychiatry, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


This concluding paper raises some final questions and issues that the authors feel should receive more emphasis in future research on ADHD in adults. One significant problem for our field is the upward extension of child-based models and approaches without proper adaptation to adults. With adults differing patterns of comorbidity and symptom heterogeneity pose new conceptual, diagnostic, and treatment challenges. As an illustration, we review ten common presenting complaints in adults and their link to the underlying core ADHD deficits of hyperkinesis, inattention, and impulsivity. While these core symptoms are often overt problems in children, in adults subtler executive dysfunction appears. Even though the growing consensus is that ADHD is a disorder of executive functions (EF), the details of the EF/ADHD connection remain unclear and may be far more complex in adults. That complexity is mirrored in the widening anatomic representation of EF, extending beyond the frontal lobes into the subcortex and other nonfrontal regions. More research will be needed to follow the developmental trajectory of executive dysfunction in ADHD over the life cycle and tie this to the developmental neuropsychology of EF. Psychosocial context and nongenetic familial influence are also critical variables that need greater consideration when characterizing and measuring ADHD symptoms in adults. Finally, until we have reached consensus on adult subject selection, we may not be able to enhance diagnostic rigor or expand our conceptual framework for understanding the underlying pathophysiology of ADHD in adults.

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