Impulsive behavior in adults with attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder: characterization of attentional, motor and cognitive impulsiveness

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2007 Jul;13(4):693-8. doi: 10.1017/S1355617707070889. Epub 2007 May 18.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity. Impulsivity persists in adults with ADHD and might be the basis of much of the impairment observed in the daily lives of such individuals. The objective of this study was to address the presence, and more importantly, the three dimensions of impulsivity: attentional, non-planning and motor, in how they may relate to neuropsychological mechanisms of impulse control. We studied a sample of 50 adults with ADHD and 51 healthy comparison controls using the Barratt Impulsivity Scale Version 11 (BIS), and neuropsychological tasks, namely the Continuous Performance Task (CPT-II) and the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). The ADHD group showed more signs of impulsivity on the three dimensions of BIS, committed more errors of omission and commission on the CPT-II, and made more disadvantageous choices on the IGT. These results support the existence of deficits related to three components of impulsivity: motor, cognitive, and attentional among adults with ADHD. Most importantly, this study also highlights the complementary nature of self-report questionnaires and neuropsychological tasks in the assessment of impulsivity in ADHD adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Gambling
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time