Attention and executive functions profile in drug naive ADHD subtypes

Brain Dev. 2007 Aug;29(7):400-8. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2006.11.010. Epub 2007 Jan 4.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been associated with executive functioning and sustained and divided attention deficits. In order to clarify the questions on neurocognitive impairment in ADHD, we investigated the presence of specific executive functions (EFs) and attention deficit patterns in ADHD clinical subtypes. 50 patients with ADHD and 44 controls were evaluated. All subjects were boys and performed a clinical-psychopathological and neuropsychological battery. Five main domains of EFs and attention were studied. Executive functions-related neurocognitive abilities were used as control tasks. ADHD patients, inattentive and combined subtypes differ from controls on response inhibition, divided attention, phonological, and visual object working memory and on variability of reaction times measured with CPT. Comparison of ADHD subtypes, in five main domains of EFs, did not show evidence of different executive functioning profiles. Response inhibition can predict performance on working memory tests but it cannot predict performance on divided attention/set shifting and on sustained attention. ADHD boys exhibit a selective impairment on executive functions and attention tasks. These data suggest the involvement of partially independent neural circuits which control inhibition and divided attention in ADHD. Since right prefrontal cortex seems to be crucial in controlling response inhibition, while left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex seems important in modulating divided attention, these areas are deputated to be involved in the pathogenesis of neuropsychological deficits in ADHD subtypes. In addition, this study candidates the impairment in phonological and visual-object working memory as a possible neuropsychological trait in ADHD males with inattentive or combined subtypes.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time