Background. It is now accepted that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often persists into adulthood. However, relative to the considerable literature concerning the profile of neurocognitive deficits associated with this disorder in childhood, equivalent investigations in adult populations have been less common. The current study examined cognitive function in adults diagnosed with ADHD employing well-validated neuropsychological tasks.
Method. Nineteen adult patients who satisfied DSM-IV criteria for ADHD and 19 matched (gender, age and verbal IQ), non-clinical control subjects were recruited. Patients were either unmedicated or had abstained from a psychostimulant medication regime for at least 24 h prior to neurocognitive assessment. A functionally wide-ranging test battery was administered.
Results. Relative to controls, ADHD adults performed significantly worse on spatial working memory, planning, and attentional-set shifting tests and were significantly slower to respond to target stimuli on the go/no-go task. In contrast, the two subject groups performed equivalently on decision-making and pattern/spatial recognition memory assessments.
Conclusions. The demonstration of neuropsychological dysfunction in the adult ADHD cohort provides some support for the validity of this diagnosis in adulthood. In particular, there is broad consistency between the cognitive profile revealed in the current investigation and that previously demonstrated in a study of medication-naïve ADHD children. There is evidence that frontostriatal function is especially disrupted.