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Increased reaction time variability (RTV) on cognitive tasks requiring a speeded response is characteristic of several psychiatric disorders. In attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the association with RTV is strong phenotypically and genetically, yet high RTV is not a stable impairment but shows ADHD-sensitive improvement under certain conditions, such as those with rewards. The state regulation theory proposed that the RTV difference score, which captures change from baseline to a rewarded or fast condition, specifically measures ‘state regulation’. By contrast, the interpretation of RTV baseline (slow, unrewarded) scores is debated. We aimed to investigate directly the degree of phenotypic and etiological overlap between RTV baseline and RTV difference scores.
We conducted genetic model fitting analyses on go/no-go and fast task RTV data, across task conditions manipulating rewards and event rate, from a population-based twin sample (n=1314) and an ADHD and control sibling-pair sample (n=1265).
Phenotypic and genetic/familial correlations were consistently high (0.72–0.98) between RTV baseline and difference scores, across tasks, manipulations and samples. By contrast, correlations were low between RTV in the manipulated condition and difference scores. A comparison across two different go/no-go task RTV difference scores (slow-fast/slow-incentive) showed high phenotypic and genetic/familial overlap (r = 0.75–0.83).
Our finding that RTV difference scores measure largely the same etiological process as RTV under baseline condition supports theories emphasizing the malleability of the observed high RTV. Given the statistical shortcomings of difference scores, we recommend the use of RTV baseline scores for most analyses, including genetic analyses.
Twin and sibling studies have identified specific cognitive phenotypes that may mediate the association between genes and the clinical symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is also associated with lower IQ scores. We aimed to investigate whether the familial association between measures of cognitive performance and the clinical diagnosis of ADHD is mediated through shared familial influences with IQ.
Multivariate familial models were run on data from 1265 individuals aged 6–18 years, comprising 920 participants from ADHD sibling pairs and 345 control participants. Cognitive assessments included a four-choice reaction time (RT) task, a go/no-go task, a choice–delay task and an IQ assessment. The analyses focused on the cognitive variables of mean RT (MRT), RT variability (RTV), commission errors (CE), omission errors (OE) and choice impulsivity (CI).
Significant familial association (rF) was confirmed between cognitive performance and both ADHD (rF=0.41–0.71) and IQ (rF=−0.25 to −0.49). The association between ADHD and cognitive performance was largely independent (80–87%) of any contribution from etiological factors shared with IQ. The exception was for CI, where 49% of the overlap could be accounted for by the familial variance underlying IQ.
The aetiological factors underlying lower IQ in ADHD seem to be distinct from those between ADHD and RT/error measures. This suggests that lower IQ does not account for the key cognitive impairments observed in ADHD. The results have implications for molecular genetic studies designed to identify genes involved in ADHD.
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is frequently co-occurring with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents. Because ODD is a precursor of later conduct disorder (CD) and affective disorders, early diagnostic identification is warranted. Furthermore, the predictability of three recently confirmed ODD dimensions (ODD-irritable, ODD-headstrong and ODD-hurtful) may assist clinical decision making.
Receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used in order to test the diagnostic accuracy of the Conners' Parent Rating Scale revised (CPRS-R) and the parent version of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (PSDQ) in the prediction of ODD in a transnational sample of 1093 subjects aged 5–17 years from the International Multicentre ADHD Genetics study. In a second step, the prediction of three ODD dimensions by the same parent rating scales was assessed by backward linear regression analyses.
ROC analyses showed adequate diagnostic accuracy of the CPRS-R and the PSDQ in predicting ODD in this ADHD sample. Furthermore, the three-dimensional structure of ODD was confirmed by confirmatory factor analysis and the CPRS-R emotional lability scale significantly predicted the ODD irritable dimension.
The PSDQ and the CPRS-R are both suitable screening instruments in the identification of ODD. The emotional lability scale of the CPRS-R is an adequate predictor of irritability in youth referred for ADHD.