Subtle Executive Impairment in Children with Autism and Children with ADHD

  • M. C. Goldberg
  • S. H. Mostofsky
  • L. E. Cutting
  • E. M. Mahone
  • B. C. Astor
  • M. B. Denckla
  • R. J. Landa
Article

Abstract

Background: The executive functions of inhibition, planning, flexible shifting of actions, and working memory are commonly reported to be impaired in neurodevelopmental disorders. Method: We compared these abilities in children (8–12 years) with high functioning autism (HFA, n = 17), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, n = 21) and healthy controls (n = 32). Response inhibition was assessed using the Stroop Color and Word Test (Golden, 1978). Problem solving, set-shifting, and nonverbal memory were assessed using three tasks, respectively, from the CANTAB® (Cambridge Cognition, 1996): the Stockings of Cambridge task; the Intra-Dimensional/Extra-Dimensional set-shifting task; and the Spatial Working Memory task (SWM) with tokens hidden behind 3, 4, 6, and 8 boxes. Results: There were no group differences on the response inhibition, planning, or set-shifting tasks. On the SWM task, children with HFA made significantly more between-searcherrors compared with controls on both the most difficult problems (8-box) and on the mid-difficulty problems (6-box); however, children with ADHD made significantly more errors compared to controls on the most difficult (8-box) problems only. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that spatial working memory is impaired in both ADHD and HFA, and more severely in the latter. More detailed investigation is needed to examine the mechanisms that differentially impair spatial working memory, but on this set of tasks there appears to be sparing of other executive functions in these neuropsychiatric developmental disorders.

Keywords

CANTAB® high functioning autism HFA ADHD executive function working memory 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aman, C. J., Roberts, R. J., Pennington, B. F. 1998A neuropsychological examination of the underlying deficit in ADHD: The frontal lobe vs right parietal theoriesDevelopmental Psychology34956969Google Scholar
  2. Barkley, R. A. 2000Genetics of childhood disorders: XVII. ADHD, Part 1: The executive functions and ADHDJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry3910641068Google Scholar
  3. Barkley, R. A., Grodzinsky, G., DuPaul, G. J. 1992Frontal lobe functions in attention deficit disorder with and without hyperactivity: A review and research reportJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology20163188Google Scholar
  4. Bennetto, L., Pennington, B. F., Rogers, S. J. 1996Intact and impaired memory functions in autismChild Development6718161835Google Scholar
  5. Berg, E. A. 1948A simple objective technique for measuring flexibility in thinkingJournal of General Psychology391522Google Scholar
  6. Biederman, J., Faraone, S. V., Keenan, K., Benjamin, J., Krifcher, B., Moore, C., Sprich Buckminster, S., Ugaglia, K., Jellinek, M. S., Steingard, R. 1992Further evidence of family-genetic risk factors in attention deficit hyperactivity disorderArchives of General Psychiatry49728738Google Scholar
  7. Borys, S. V., Spitz, H., Dorans, B. A. 1982Tower of Hanoi performance of retarded young adults and nonretarded children as a function of solution length and goal stateJournal of Experimental Child Psychology3387110Google Scholar
  8. Bryson, S. E. 1983Interference effects in autistic children: Evidence for the comprehension of single stimuliJournal of Abnormal Psychology92250254Google Scholar
  9. Castellanos, F. X., Marvasti, F.F., Ducharme, J. L., Walter, J. M., Israel, M. E., Krain, A., Pavlovsky, C., Hommer, D. W. 2000Executive function oculomotor tasks in girls with ADHDJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry39644650Google Scholar
  10. Cambridge Cognition Cognition1996CANTAB®Cambridge Cognition LimitedCambridge, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  11. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., Aiken, L. S. 2002Applied multiple regression/correlation analyses in the behavioral sciencesLawrence Erlbaum AssociatesMahwah New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  12. Conners, C. K. 1997Conners’ rating scales-revisedMulti-Health Systems, IncNorth Tonawanda New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Cox, C. S., Chee, E., Chase, G. A., Baumgardner, T. L., Schuerholz, L. J., Reader, M. J., Mohr, J., Denckla, M. B. 1997Reading proficiency affects the construct validity of the Stroop test interference scoreThe Clinical Neuropsychologist11105110Google Scholar
  14. Cutting, L. E., Koth, C. W., Mahone, E. M., Denckla, M. B. 2003Evidence for unexpected “difficulties in learning” in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) without reading disabilities (RD)Journal of Learning Disabilities36259269Google Scholar
  15. DuPaul, G. J. 1991Parent and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms: Psychometric properties in a community based sampleJournal of Clinical Child Psychology20243253Google Scholar
  16. Eskes, G. A., Bryson, S. E., McCormick, T. A. 1990Comprehension of concrete and abstract words in autistic childrenJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders206173Google Scholar
  17. Faraone, S. V., Biederman, J., Chen, W. J., Milberger, S., Warburton, R., Tsuang, M. T. 1995Genetic heterogeneity in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Gender, psychiatric comorbidity, and maternal ADHDJournal of Abnormal Psychology104334345Google Scholar
  18. Goldberg, M. C., Lasker, A. G., Zee, D. S., Garth, E., Tien, A., Landa, R. J. 2002Evidence for ocular motor abnormalities in autismNeuropsychologia1426111Google Scholar
  19. Golden, C. J. 1978Stroop Color and Word test: Manual for clinical and experimental usesStoeltingChicagoGoogle Scholar
  20. Gorenstein, E., Mammato, C. A., Sandy, J. M. 1989Performance of inattentive overactive children on selected measures of prefrontal-type functionJournal of Clinical Psychology45619632Google Scholar
  21. Greenberg, L. M., Leark, R. A., Dupuy, T. R., Corman, C. L., Kindschi, C. L. 1996Tests of variables of attention (T.O.V.A.)Universal Attention Disorders, IncLos Alamitos, CAGoogle Scholar
  22. Griffith, E. M., Pennington, B. F., Wehner, E. A., Rogers, S. J. 1999Executive functions in young children with autismChild Development70817832Google Scholar
  23. Grodzinsky, G. M., Diamond, R. 1992Frontal lobe functioning in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorderDevelopmental Neuropsychology8427445Google Scholar
  24. Hollingshead, A. B. 1975Four factor index of social statusYale University, Department of SociologyNew Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
  25. Hughes, C., Russell, J., Robbins, T. W. 1994Evidence for executive function in autismNeuropsychologia32477492Google Scholar
  26. Kempton, S., Vance, A., Maruff, P., Luk, E., Costin, J., Pantelis, C. 1999Executive function and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: stimulant medication and better executive func- tion performance in childrenPsychological Medicine29527538Google Scholar
  27. Klorman, R., Hazel-Fernandez, L., Shaywitz, S. E., Fletcher, J. M., Marchione, K. E., Holahan, J. M., Stuebing, K., Shaywitz, B. A. 1999Executive functioning deficits in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are independent of oppositional defiant or reading disorderJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry3811481155Google Scholar
  28. R. J. Landa and M. C. Goldberg (2005). Language and Executive Functions in High Functioning Autism: A continuum of impaired to enhanced performance. Journal of Autism and Developmental and DisordersGoogle Scholar
  29. Minshew, N. J., Goldstein, G., Muenz, L. R., Payton, J. B. 1992Neuropsychological functioning in nonmentally retarded autistic individualsJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology14749761Google Scholar
  30. Minshew, N. J., Goldstein, G., Siegel, D. J. 1997Neuropsychologic functioning in autism: Profile of a complex information processing disorderJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society3303316Google Scholar
  31. Minshew, N. J., Luna, B., Sweeney, J. A. 1999Oculomotor evidence for neocortical systems but not cerebellar dysfunction in autismNeurology52917922Google Scholar
  32. Mostofsky, S. H., Lasker, A. G., Cutting, L. E., Denckla, M. B., Zee, D. S. 2001aOculomotor abnormalities in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A preliminary studyNeurology57423430Google Scholar
  33. Mostofsky, S. H., Lasker, A. G., Singer, H. S., Denckla, M. B., Zee, D. S. 2001bOculomotor abnormalities in boys with Tourette syndrome with and without ADHDJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry4014641472Google Scholar
  34. Munoz, D., Hampton, K. A., Moore, K. D., Goldring, J. E. 1999

    Control of purposive saccadic eye movements and visual fixation in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

    Becker,  eds. Current Oculomotor ResearchPlenum PressNew York415423
    Google Scholar
  35. Nigg, J., Blaskey, L., Huang-Pollock, C., Rappley, M. 2002Neuropsychological executive functions and DSM-IV ADHD subtypesJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry415966Google Scholar
  36. Ozonoff S., Cook I., Coon H., Dawson G., Joseph R., Klin A., McMahon W., Minshew N., Munson J., Pennington B., Rogers S., Spence M., Tager-Flusberg H., Volkmar F., & Wrathall D. (2004). Performance on Cambridge Neuropsychological Text Automated Battery subtests sensitive to frontal lobe function in people with autistic disorder: Evidence from the Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism network. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34, 139--150Google Scholar
  37. Ozonoff, S., Jensen, J. 1999Brief report: Specific executive function profiles in three neurodevelopmental dis-ordersJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders29171177Google Scholar
  38. Ozonoff, S., McEvoy, R. E. 1994A longitudinal study of executive function and theory of mind development in autismDevelopment and Psychopathology6415431Google Scholar
  39. Ozonoff, S., Pennington, B. F., Rogers, S. J. 1991Executive function deficits in high functioning autistic individuals: Relationship to theory of mindJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry3210811105Google Scholar
  40. Ozonoff, S., South, M., Miller, J. N. 2000DSM-IV-defined Asperger syndrome: Cognitive, behavioral and early history differentiation from high-functioning autismAutism42946Google Scholar
  41. Ozonoff, S., Strayer, D. L. 1997Inhibitory function in nonretarded children with autismJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders275977Google Scholar
  42. Ozonoff, S., Strayer, D. L. 2001Further evidence of intact working memory in autismJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders31257263Google Scholar
  43. Ozonoff, S., Strayer, D. L., McMahon, W. M., Filloux, F. 1994Executive function abilities in autism and Tourette syndrome: An information processing approachJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry3510151032Google Scholar
  44. Pennington, B. F., Groisser, D., Welch, M. C. 1993Contrasting deficits in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder versus reading disabilityDevelopmental Psychology29511523Google Scholar
  45. Pliszka, S. R., Liotti, M., Woldorff, M. G. 2000Inhibitory control in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: event-related potentials identify the processing component and timing of an impaired right-frontal response-inhibition mechanismBiological Psychiatry48238246Google Scholar
  46. Reader, M. J., Harris, E. L., Schuerholz, L. J., Denckla, M. B. 1994Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and executive dysfunctionDevelopmental Neuropsychology10493512Google Scholar
  47. Reardon, S. M., Naglieri, J. A. 1992PASS cognitive processing characteristics of normal and ADHD malesJournal of School Psychology30151163Google Scholar
  48. Reich, W., Welner, Z., Herjanic, B. 1997The diagnostic interview for children and adolescents-IVMulti-Health SystemsNorth TonawandaGoogle Scholar
  49. Ross, R. G., Hommer, D., Breiger, D., Varley, C., Radant, A. 1994Eye movement task related to frontal lobe functioning in children with attention deficit disorderJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry33869874Google Scholar
  50. Russell, J., Jarrold, C., Hood, B. 1999Two intact executive capacities in children with autism: Implications for the core executive dysfunctions in the disorderJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders29103112Google Scholar
  51. Sargeant, J., Guerts, H., Oosterlaan, J. 2002How specific is a deficit of executive function for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?Behavioral Brain Research130328Google Scholar
  52. Schachar, R., Logan, G. D. 1990Impulsivity and inhibitory control in normal development and childhood psychopathologyDevelopmental Psychology26710720Google Scholar
  53. Schachar, R., Tannock, R., Mariott, M., Logan, G. 1995Deficient inhibitory control in attention deficit hyperactiv- ity disorderJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology23311347Google Scholar
  54. Shue, K. L., Douglas, V. I. 1992Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the frontal lobe syndromeBrain and Cognition20104124Google Scholar
  55. Stroop, J. R. 1935Studies of interference in serial verbal reactionsJournal of Experimental Psychology18643662Google Scholar
  56. Tannock, R., Martinussen, R., Frijters, J. 2000Naming speed performance and stimulant effects indicate effortful, semantic processing deficits in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology28237252Google Scholar
  57. Thorndike, R. L., Hagen, E., Sattler, J. 1985Stanford-Binet intelligence scale, Fourth EditionThe Riverside Publishing CompanyItasca, ILGoogle Scholar
  58. Trommer, B. L., Hoeppner, J. B., Lorber, R., Armstrong, K. 1988The go-no-go paradigm in attention deficit disorderAnnals of Neurology24610614Google Scholar
  59. Turner, M. 1997

    Towards an executive dysfunction account of repetitive behaviour in autism

    Russell, J. eds. Autism as an executive function disorderOxford University PressOxford57100
    Google Scholar
  60. Wechsler, D. 1974Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-RevisedThe Psychological CorporationSan Antonio, TXGoogle Scholar
  61. Wechsler, D. 1991Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IIIThe Psychological CorporationSan Antonio, TXGoogle Scholar
  62. Weyandt, L., Willis, W. G. 1994Executive functions in school-aged children: Potential efficacy of tasks in discriminating clinical groupsDevelopmental Neuropsychology102738Google Scholar
  63. Willcutt, E. G., Pennington, B. F., Boada, R., Ogline, J. S., Tunick, R. A., Chhabildas, N. A., Olson, R. K. 2001A companion of the cognitive deficits in reading disability and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorderJournal of Abnormal Psychology110157172Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. C. Goldberg
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. H. Mostofsky
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. E. Cutting
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. M. Mahone
    • 1
    • 2
  • B. C. Astor
    • 3
  • M. B. Denckla
    • 1
    • 2
  • R. J. Landa
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Kennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.The Johns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations