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A recent study, published in PLOS ONE, examined the impacts that ADHD-related deficits in basic functioning have on complex cognitive tasks in adults with ADHD. The study researchers also explored the contribution complex cognitive functioning impairments have on the variance in adult ADHD diagnosis.

Data were gathered from 48 adult patients with ADHD and 48 healthy control adult patients. The researchers sought to add to the literature on this topic by utilizing a set of neuropsychological tests that differed from previous studies. They used three different assessments to measure ADHD symptoms and associated functional impairments: Conners’s Adult ADHD Rating Scales, the Weiss Functional Impairment Rating Scale, and the Questionnaire for Complaints of Cognitive Disturbances. 

The researchers also used five subtests from the Vienna Test System to assess the basic cognitive functions of processing speed and distractibility and the complex cognitive functions of working memory, planning, and cognitive flexibility. Finally, two additional assessments were used to evaluate verbal memory and verbal fluency. 

Ultimately, it was found that impairments in complex cognitive functioning explained 25% of the variance in ADHD diagnosis. However, when controlling for processing speed and distractibility specifically, the variance dropped to 9%. 

While there is a substantial foundation of knowledge related to patients with ADHD and their cognitive functioning, this study reinforces the importance of basic functions for impairments in complex functions in adults with ADHD. A call to action is made to further explore when deficiency of basic functioning happens during information processing for adults with ADHD [1]. 


[1] Mohamed, S. M. H., Butzbach, M., Fuermaier, A. B. M., Weisbrod, M., Aschenbrenner, S., Tucha, L., & Tucha, O. (2021). Basic and complex cognitive functions in adult ADHD. PLOS ONE, 16(9), e0256228. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256228

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