Developmental trajectories of executive functions in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

J Neurodev Disord. 2016 Mar 25;8:10. doi: 10.1186/s11689-016-9141-1. eCollection 2016.


Background: 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS) is a genetic disorder associated with a specific cognitive profile. Higher-order cognitive skills like executive functions (EF) are reported as a relative weakness in this population. The present study aimed to delineate the developmental trajectories of multiple EF domains in a longitudinal sample using a broader age range than previous studies. Given the high incidence of psychotic symptoms in 22q11.2DS, we also compared the development of EF in participants with/without comorbid psychotic symptoms. Given the importance of EF in daily life, the third aim of the study was to characterize the link between EF and adaptive functioning.

Methods: The sample consisted of 95 individuals with 22q11.2DS and 100 typically developing controls aged 6-26 years. A large proportion of the sample (55.38 %) had multiple time points available. Between-group differences in the developmental trajectories of three subdomains of EF (verbal fluency, working memory, and inhibition) were examined using mixed models regression analyses. Analyses were repeated comparing only the 22q11.2DS group based on the presence/absence of psychotic symptoms to investigate the influence of executive dysfunction on the emergence of psychotic symptoms. Hierarchical stepwise regression analyses were also conducted to investigate the predictive value of EF on adaptive functioning.

Results: We observed lower performance on EF domains, as well as atypical development of working memory and verbal fluency. Participants who presented with negative symptoms exhibited different developmental trajectories of inhibition and working memory. Adaptive functioning level was not significantly predicted by EF scores.

Conclusions: The present study highlighted domain-specific atypical trajectories of EF in individuals with 22q11.DS and explored the link with psychotic symptoms. However, no relation between EF and adaptive functioning was observed.

Keywords: 22q11.2 deletion syndrome; Adaptive functioning; Development; Executive functions.