Network analysis of narrative discourse and attention-deficit hyperactivity symptoms in adults

PLoS One. 2021 Apr 7;16(4):e0245113. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245113. eCollection 2021.


Previous research investigating language in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has demonstrated several deficits in many aspects. However, no previous study employed quantitative methodology providing objective measures that could be compared among different studies with diverse samples. To fill this gap, we used network analysis to investigate how ADHD symptomatology impacts narrative discourse, a complex linguistic task considered to be an ecological measure of language. Fifty-eight adults (34 females and 24 males) with a mean age of 26 years old and a mean of 17 years of educational level were administered the Adult Self-Rating Scale for ADHD symptomatology. They also completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory and the Urgency, Premeditation, Perseverance, Sensation Seeking Behavior Scale. Intelligence quotient was calculated. Individuals were asked to tell a story based on a wordless picture book. Speech was recorded and transcribed as an input to SpeechGraphs software. Parameters were total number of words (TNW), number of loops of one node (L1), repeated edges (RE), largest strongly connected component (LSC) and average shortest path (ASP). Verbosity was controlled. Statistical analysis was corrected for multiples comparisons and partial correlations were performed for confounding variables. After controlling for anxiety, depression, IQ, and impulsiveness ADHD symptomatology was positively correlated with L1 and negatively correlated with LSC. TNW was positively correlated with ADHD symptoms. In a subdomain analysis, both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were negatively correlated with LSC. Only hyperactivity-impulsivity positively correlated with TNW and L1. Results indicated a correlation between ADHD symptoms and lower connectedness in narrative discourse (as indicated by higher L1 and lower LSC), as well as higher total number of words (TNW). Our results suggest that the higher the number of ADHD symptoms, the less connectivity among words, and a higher number of words in narrative discourse.

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work. Paulo Mattos has received fees as speaker and member of the advisory board from Takeda, outside this study.