Examining executive functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and typical development. Psychiatry Research, 166, 210-222

Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA.
Psychiatry Research (Impact Factor: 2.47). 05/2009; 166(2-3):210-22. DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2008.02.005
Source: PubMed


Executive functioning (EF) is an overarching term that refers to neuropsychological processes that enable physical, cognitive, and emotional self-control. Deficits in EF are often present in neurodevelopmental disorders, but examinations of the specificity of EF deficits and direct comparisons across disorders are rare. The current study investigated EF in 7- to 12-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and typical development using a comprehensive battery of measures assessing EF, including response inhibition, working memory, cognitive flexibility, planning, fluency and vigilance. The ADHD group exhibited deficits in vigilance, inhibition and working memory relative to the typical group; however, they did not consistently demonstrate problems on the remaining EF measures. Children with ASD showed significant deficits in vigilance compared with the typical group, and significant differences in response inhibition, cognitive flexibility/switching, and working memory compared with both groups. These results lend support for previous findings that show children with autism demonstrate generalized and profound impairment in EF. In addition, the observed deficits in vigilance and inhibitory control suggest that a significant number of children with ASD present with cognitive profiles consistent with ADHD.

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Available from: Blythe A Corbett
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    • "A critical review regarding the theory of executive dysfunction in children with ASD carried out by Hill (2004) showed that overall children with ASD tended to be impaired in planning, mental flexibility, which includes set-shifting and cognitive flexibility, inhibition and self-monitoring. Also, SEQUENCE LEARNING AND FEEDBACK IN ASD 5 more recent studies confirmed that children with ASD showed impairments in planning, inhibition and self-monitoring (Corbett et al., 2009; Happé, Booth, Charlton, & Hughes, 2006; Robinson, Goddard, Dritschel, Wisley, & Howlin, 2009). However, when Robinson et al. controlled for age differences, she found age-related gains in mental flexibility, planning and the speed of response, but not in response inhibition and self-monitoring. "
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    ABSTRACT: The study investigated sequence learning from stochastic feedback in boys with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and typically developed (TD) boys. We asked boys with ASD from Nigeria and the UK as well as age- and gender-matched controls (also males only) to deduce a sequence of four left and right button presses, LLRR, RRLL, LRLR, RLRL, LRRL and RLLR from a feedback signal. Results revealed no significant differences between the boys with ASD from Nigeria and the UK as both groups of boys improved during the task. Most interestingly, the ASD and TD group of boys learning differed for certainty, but not uncertainty of feedback. We concluded that further research is needed why boys with ASD did not benefit from true, logical and reliable feedback.
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    • "According to Lezak (1982, p.281), executive function refers to " mental capacities necessary for formulating goals, planning how to achieve them, and carrying out the plans effectively " . Individuals with developmental disorders also have problems with executive functions (Corbett et al. 2009; Pennington and Ozonoff 1996), and executive function as a whole predicts IQ (Brydges et al. 2012), although not all executive tasks are related to IQ (Friedman et al. 2006). Furthermore, Gathercole et al. (2008) suggest that working memory, part of executive function, plays a more significant role in typical classroom activities than IQ. "

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    • "We predicted that current ASD symptom severity would correlate with the IOR effect. There is now an appreciation for co-occurring anxiety and ADHD symptoms influencing performance on attention, executive function, and social processing tasks in youth with ASD (Corbett et al. 2009; Herrington et al., submitted; Hollocks et al. 2014; Pugliese et al. 2015; Sinzig et al. 2008; Yerys et al. 2013). Thus, we also tested whether differences in the IOR effect are correlated with severity of co-occurring anxiety or ADHD symptoms. "
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    ABSTRACT: In typical development there is a bias to orient visual attention to social information. Children with ASD do not reliably demonstrate this bias, and the role of attention orienting has not been well studied. We examined attention orienting via the inhibition of return (IOR) mechanism in a spatial cueing task using social-emotional cues; we studied 8- to 17-year-old children with ASD (n = 41) and typically developing controls (TDC) (n = 25). The ASD group exhibited a significantly stronger IOR effect than the TDC group, and the IOR effect correlated positively with social impairments but was unrelated to co-occurring ADHD or anxiety symptoms. The results provide evidence of an early altered attention mechanism that is associated with to core social deficits in ASD.
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