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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2018 Oct;24(9):928-938. doi: 10.1017/S1355617717001333.

Executive Skills and Academic Achievement in the Dystrophinopathies.

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1The Graduate Center,City University of New York,Queens College,Queens,New York.
3Departments of Neurology and Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine,Columbia University,New York,New York.
4The Graduate Center,City University of New York,Queens College,Queens,New York.



To examine academic performance in dystrophinopathy as a function of dystrophin gene mutation position as well as intellectual function, executive skills, socioeconomic status (SES), behavior, and physical ability.


In a cross-sectional study, boys with dystrophinopathy (ages 5-17; n=50) completed tests of academics (Woodcock-Johnson-III: spelling, reading, calculation and total scores), executive functioning (selective attention/inhibitory control, set shifting, working memory, and processing speed), single word comprehension and nonverbal reasoning. Motor skills were assessed and parents provided demographic information and child behavioral assessments. Dystrophin gene mutation positions were dichotomized into groups (upstream versus downstream of exon 43, location of isoforms previously linked to intellectual impairment). Genetic mutation groups were compared on measures of academic achievement, and multiple regression analyses examined unique and joint contributions of executive skills, intelligence quotient (IQ), SES, motor abilities, behavior, and mutation positions to academic outcomes.


Academic performance was slightly, yet significantly, lower than IQ and varied as a function of dystrophin gene position, wherein boys possessing the downstream mutation exhibited greater impairment than boys with the upstream mutation. Digit span forward (indexing verbal span), but no other measure of executive function, contributed significant variance to total academic achievement, spelling and calculation.


Weak academic performance is associated with dystrophinopathy and is more common in downstream mutations. A specific deficit in verbal span may underlie inefficiencies observed in children with dystrophinopathy and may drive deficits impacting academic abilities. (JINS, 2018, 24, 928-938).


Academics; Cognition; Digit span; Dystrophin; Executive function; Verbal working memory


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