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Attenuated inhibitory control is one of the most robust findings in the neuropsychology of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, it is unclear whether this represents a deficit in outright stopping (reactive inhibition), whether it relates to a deficit in anticipatory response slowing (proactive inhibition), or both. In addition, children with other development disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), often have symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity similar to children with ADHD. These may relate to similar underlying changes in inhibitory processing.
In this study, we used a modified stop-signal task to dissociate reactive and proactive inhibition. We included not only children with ADHD, but also children primarily diagnosed with an ASD and high parent-rated levels of ADHD symptoms.
We replicated the well-documented finding of attenuated reactive inhibition in children with ADHD. In addition, we found a similar deficit in children with ASD and a similar level of ADHD symptoms. In contrast, we found no evidence for deficits in proactive inhibition in either clinical group.
These findings re-emphasize the role of reactive inhibition in children with ADHD and ADHD symptoms. Moreover, our findings stress the importance of a trans-diagnostic approach to the relationship between behavior and neuropsychology.
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