Executive Functions in Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Comorbidity Overlaps Between Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and Specific Learning Disorders

Front Hum Neurosci. 2021 Feb 10:15:594234. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2021.594234. eCollection 2021.


The present study examines the comorbidity between specific learning disorders (SLD) and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by comparing the neuropsychological profiles of children with and without this comorbidity. Ninety-seven schoolchildren from 8 to 14 years old were tested: a clinical sample of 49 children with ADHD (n = 18), SLD (n = 18) or SLD in comorbidity with ADHD (n = 13), and 48 typically-developing (TD) children matched for age and intelligence. Participants were administered tasks and questionnaires to confirm their initial diagnosis, and a battery of executive function (EF) tasks testing inhibition, shifting, and verbal and visuospatial updating. Using one-way ANOVAs, our results showed that all children in the clinical samples exhibited impairments on EF measures (inhibition and shifting tasks) when compared with TD children. A more specific pattern only emerged for the updating tasks. Only children with SLD had significant impairment in verbal updating, whereas children with ADHD, and those with SLD in comorbidity with ADHD, had the worst performance in visuospatial updating. The clinical and educational implications of these findings are discussed.

Keywords: ADHD; SLD; comorbidity; executive functions; neurodevelopmental disorders.