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Neuropsychological functioning in people with ADHD across the lifespan

Clinical Psychology Review
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2006.01.004
  • Adhd
  • Executive Dysfunction
  • Neuropsychology
  • Attention
  • Cognition
  • Biology
  • Design
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychology


Abstract ADHD is defined by behavioral characteristics similar to neuropsychological disorders of executive dysfunction. This paper is a literature review of the neurocognitive characteristics of ADHD from early childhood through adulthood. The author addresses the development of the concept of attention and executive function (EF) deficits in ADHD, clinical neuropsychological studies of pre-teenage children, teenagers and adults with ADHD, gender and the role of psychiatric co-morbidity including the relationship of learning disabilities to ADHD, heterogeneity of neuropsychological dysfunctions, experimental neuropsychological studies, the relationship of brain structure to function, psychopharmacology of ADHD, and clinical neuropsychological assessment. The group data clearly supports the hypothesis that executive dysfunctions are correlates of ADHD regardless of gender and age, and these EF deficits are exacerbated by co-morbidity with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. However, there is limited data on children under the age of 5, teenagers from age 13–18, and adults with ADHD over the age of 40. Studies of individual classification of people with ADHD compared to healthy, non-psychiatric controls do not support the use of neuropsychological tests for the clinical diagnosis of ADHD, and indicate that not all persons with ADHD have EF deficits. Some persons with ADHD may have deficits in brain reward systems that are relatively independent of EF impairments. Future research should clarify the multiple sources of ADHD impairments, continue to refine neuropsychological tools optimized for assessment, and incorporate longitudinal, developmental designs to understand ADHD across the lifespan.

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