, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 481-498

Neuropsychological functioning, motor speed, and language processing in boys with and without ADHD

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We administered a neuropsychological battery to boys aged 6 to 12 years old diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; n= 51) and to comparison boys of the same age range (n= 31). Boys with ADHD had greater difficulty than comparison youngsters on nonautomated language and motor tasks administered with a fast instructional set and on one of two traditional frontal executive measures (Porteus mazes). When tasks requiring automatic processing were paired with similar tasks requiring greater use of selective attention processes, the latter, controlled processing tasks differentiated groups better than did automated tasks. This differential effect of otherwise similar tasks is interpreted in terms of an output deficit mediated by response organization as detailed in the information processing literature. The ADHD group also exhibited slow gross motor output, measured independently of verbal output. The findings are evaluated in terms of both Luria's (1973) tripartite model of neurocognitive organization and frontal striatal models, with an emphasis on output processes. The observed language deficits could represent frontal lobe processes intricately related to self-monitoring and planning. The utility of controlled processing, self-paced tasks with fast instructional sets in assessing language and motor skills in ADHD is highlighted.

This research was supported primarily by National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01 MH45064 awarded to Stephen P. Hinshaw. Joel T. Nigg was partially supported by NIH Research Service Award F31 MH10462-01. The authors wish to thank Deborah P. Waber, Ph.D., of Harvard University for her assistance in scoring the Rey-Osterreith complex design, and Jennifer Ablow, Margaret Kuklinsksi, Jeff Measelle, Teron Park, Cassandra Simmel, and Jennifer Treuting for helping to administer the measures, code the results, and discuss the study. We also acknowledge the enthusiastic participation of the children and families in the summer programs.