Introduction: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and reading disability (RD) are complex childhood disorders that frequently co-occur, but the etiology of this comorbidity remains unknown.
Method: Participants were 457 twin pairs from the Colorado Learning Disabilities Research Center (CLDRC) twin study, an ongoing study of the etiology of RD, ADHD, and related disorders. Phenotypic analyses compared groups with and without RD and ADHD on composite measures of six cognitive domains. Twin analyses were then used to test the etiology of the relations between the disorders and any cognitive weaknesses.
Results: Phenotypic analyses supported the hypothesis that both RD and ADHD arise from multiple cognitive deficits rather than a single primary cognitive deficit. RD was associated independently with weaknesses on measures of phoneme awareness, verbal reasoning, and working memory, whereas ADHD was independently associated with a heritable weakness in inhibitory control. RD and ADHD share a common cognitive deficit in processing speed, and twin analyses indicated that this shared weakness is primarily due to common genetic influences that increase susceptibility to both disorders.
Conclusions: Individual differences in processing speed are influenced by genes that also increase risk for RD, ADHD, and their comorbidity. These results suggest that processing speed measures may be useful for future molecular genetic studies of the etiology of comorbidity between RD and ADHD.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Srl. All rights reserved.