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Brain Cogn. 2006 Jun;61(1):25-39. Epub 2006 May 6.

Executive function deficits in autism spectrum disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: examining profiles across domains and ages.

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MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK.


Deficits in 'executive function' (EF) are characteristic of several clinical disorders, most notably Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In this study, age- and IQ-matched groups with ASD, ADHD, or typical development (TD) were compared on a battery of EF tasks tapping three core domains: response selection/inhibition, flexibility, and planning/working memory. Relations between EF, age and everyday difficulties (rated by parents and teachers) were also examined. Both clinical groups showed significant EF impairments compared with TD peers. The ADHD group showed greater inhibitory problems on a Go-no-Go task, while the ASD group was significantly worse on response selection/monitoring in a cognitive estimates task. Age-related improvements were clearer in ASD and TD than in ADHD. At older (but not younger) ages, the ASD group outperformed the ADHD group, performing as well as the TD group on many EF measures. EF scores were related to specific aspects of communicative and social adaptation, and negatively correlated with hyperactivity in ASD and TD. Within the present groups, the overall findings suggested less severe and persistent EF deficits in ASD (including Asperger Syndrome) than in ADHD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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