Advancing the neuroscience of ADHD| Volume 57, ISSUE 11, P1256-1260, June 01, 2005

A Developmental Perspective on the Measurement of Cognitive Deficits in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

      Research on the cognitive deficits associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder has highlighted deficits in executive function in individuals with the disorder. This article suggests deconstructing the umbrella term “executive function” and focuses on one of its component processes: cognitive inhibition. Cognitive developmental psychology research suggests that component processes, such as cognitive inhibition, should be examined from a variety of approaches to fully appreciate patterns of competency and deficit. This article contrasts cognitive inhibition from behavioral inhibition and resistance to interference. Two types of cognitive inhibition, automatic and intentional, are proposed. Finally, suggestions for guiding research design are taken from the cognitive developmental psychology literature. These include studying very limited age ranges and conducting longitudinal research, investigating qualitative and quantitative differences in performance, examining the underlying processing and strategy differences between populations, and investigating multiple aspects of performance between populations.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Biological Psychiatry
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Baddeley A.
        Exploring the central executive.
        Q J Exp Psychol. 1996; 49A: 5-28
        • Barkley R.A.
        Behavioral inhibition, sustained attention, and executive functions.
        Psychol Bull. 1997; 121: 65-94
        • Bentler P.M.
        • McClain J.
        A multitrait-multimethod analysis of reflectionimpulsivity.
        Child Dev. 1976; 47: 218-226
        • Bjorklund D.F.
        Children’s Thinking. 4th ed. Thomson/Wadsworth, Belmont, Califorina2005
        • Bjorklund D.F.
        • Kipp K.
        Parental investment theory and gender differences in the evolution of inhibition mechanisms.
        Psychol Bull. 1996; 120: 163-188
        • Bjorklund D.F.
        • Muir-Broaddus J.E.
        • Schneider W.
        The role of knowledge in the development of strategies.
        in: Bjorklund D.F. Children’s Strategies Contemporary Views of Cognitive Development. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey1990: 93-128
        • Brainerd C.J.
        • Reyna V.F.
        Output interference theory of dual-task deficits in memory development.
        J Exp Child Psychol. 1989; 47: 1-18
        • Brodeur D.A.
        • Pond M.
        The development of selective attention in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
        J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2001; 29: 229-239
        • Bull R.
        • Scerif G.
        Executive functioning as a predictor of children’s mathematics ability.
        Dev Neuropsychol. 2001; 19: 273-293
        • Carlson S.M.
        • Moses L.J.
        • Breton C.
        How specific is the relation between executive function and Theory of Mind? Contributions of inhibitory control and working memory.
        Infant Child Dev. 2002; 11: 73-92
        • Carlson S.M.
        • Moses L.J.
        • Hix H.R.
        The role of inhibitory processes in young children’s difficulties with deception and false belief.
        Child Dev. 1998; 69: 672-691
        • Chelune G.J.
        • Baer R.A.
        Developmental norms for the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.
        J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 1986; 8: 219-228
        • Dempster F.N.
        The rise and fall of the inhibitory mechanism.
        Dev Rev. 1992; 12: 45-75
      1. Dempster F.N. Brainerd C.J. Interference and Inhibition in Cognition. Academic Press, San Diego1995
        • Denckla M.B.
        • Reiss A.L.
        Prefrontal-subcortical circuits in developmental disorders.
        in: Krasnegor N.A. Lyon G.R. Goldman-Rakic P.S. Development of the Prefrontal Cortex Evolution, Neurobiology, and Behavior. Paul Publishing, Baltimore, Maryland1997: 283-293
        • Diamond A.
        Neuropsychological insights into the meaning of object concept development.
        in: Carey S. Gelman R. The Epigenesis of Mind Essays on Biology and Cognition. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey1991: 67-110
        • Diamond A.
        • Kirkham N.
        • Amso D.
        Conditions under which young children can hold two rules in mind and inhibit a prepotent response.
        Dev Psychol. 2002; 38: 352-362
        • Eimer M.
        • Schlaghecken F.
        Links between conscious awareness and response inhibition.
        Psychonom Bull Rev. 2002; 9: 514-520
        • Gaultney J.F.
        • Kipp K.
        • Weinstein J.
        • McNeill J.
        Inhibition and mental effort in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
        J Dev Phys Disabilities. 1999; 11: 105-114
        • Gerstadt C.L.
        • Hong Y.J.
        • Diamond A.
        The relationship between cognition and action.
        Cognition. 1994; 53: 129-153
        • Hamm V.P.
        • Hasher L.
        Age and the availability of inferences.
        Psychol Aging. 1992; 7: 56-64
        • Harnishfeger K.K.
        The development of cognitive inhibition.
        in: Dempster F.N. Brainerd C.J. Interference and Inhibition in Cognition. Academic Press, San Diego1995: 175-204
        • Harnishfeger K.K.
        • Bjorklund D.F.
        The ontogeny of inhibition mechanisms.
        in: Howe M.L. Pasnak R. Emerging Themes in Cognitive Development: Volume 1: Foundations. Springer-Verlag, New York1993: 28-49
        • Harnishfeger K.K.
        • Bjorklund D.F.
        A developmental perspective on individual differences in inhibition.
        Learn Individual Differences. 1994; 6: 331-355
        • Harnishfeger K.K.
        • Pope R.S.
        Intending to forget.
        J Exp Child Psychol. 1996; 62: 292-315
        • Hughes C.
        Executive function in preschoolers.
        Br J Dev Psychol. 1998; 16: 233-253
        • Kipp K.
        • Pope S.
        The development of cognitive inhibition in streams-of-consciousness and directed speech.
        Cogn Dev. 1997; 12: 239-260
        • Kipp K.
        • Pope S.
        • Digby S.E.
        The development of cognitive inhibition in a reading comprehension task.
        Eur Rev Appl Psychol. 1998; 48: 19-24
        • Koschack J.
        • Kunert H.J.
        • Derichs G.
        • Weniger G.
        • Irle E.
        Impaired and enhanced attentional function in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
        Psychol Med. 2003; 33: 481-489
        • Lane D.M.
        • Pearson D.A.
        The development of selective attention.
        Merrill-Palmer Q. 1982; 28: 317-337
        • Levin H.S.
        • Culhane K.A.
        • Hartmann J.
        • Evankovich K.
        • Mattson A.J.
        • Harward H.
        • et al.
        Developmental changes in performance on tests of purported frontal lobe functioning.
        Dev Neuropsychol. 1991; 7: 377-395
        • Logan G.D.
        On the ability to inhibit thought and action.
        in: Dagenbach D. Carr T.H. Inhibitory Processes in Attention, Memory, and Language. Academic Press, San Diego1994: 189-239
        • Logan G.D.
        • Cowan W.B.
        On the ability to inhibit thought and action.
        Psychol Rev. 1984; 91: 295-327
        • Logan G.D.
        • Cowan W.B.
        • Davis K.A.
        On the ability to inhibit simple and choice reaction time responses.
        J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1984; 10: 276-291
        • Lorsbach T.C.
        • Reimer J.F.
        Developmental changes in the inhibition of previously relevant information.
        J Exp Child Psychol. 1997; 64: 31-342
        • Luria A.R.
        Higher Cortical Functions in Man. 2nd ed. Basic Books, New York1966
        • Manly T.
        • Anderson V.
        • Nimmo-Smith I.
        • Turner A.
        • Watson P.
        • Robertson I.H.
        The differential assessment of children’s attention.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2001; 42: 1065-1081
        • Mason D.J.
        • Humphreys G.W.
        • Kent L.S.
        Exploring selective attention in ADHD.
        J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2003; 44: 1158-1176
        • Mischel W.
        • Shoda Y.
        • Rodriguez M.L.
        Delay of gratification in children.
        Science. 1989; 244: 933-938
        • Muller U.
        • Zelazo P.D.
        • Hood S.
        • Leone T.
        • Rohrer L.
        Interference control in a new rule use task.
        Child Dev. 2004; 75: 1594-1609
        • Neill W.T.
        Inhibitory and faciliatory processes in selective attention.
        J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1977; 3: 444-450
        • Neill W.T.
        • Valdes L.A.
        • Terry K.M.
        Selective attention and the inhibitory control of cognition.
        in: Dempster F.N. Brainerd C.J. Interference and Inhibition in Cognition. Academic Press, San Diego, CA1995: 207-263
        • Nigg J.T.
        • Willcutt E.G.
        • Doyle A.E.
        • Sonuga-Barke E.J.S.
        Causal heterogeneity in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2005; 57: 1224-1230
        • Norman D.A.
        • Shallice T.
        Attention to action.
        in: Davidson R.J. Schwartz G.E. Shapiro D. Consciousness and Self-Regulation. vol 4. Plenum, New York1986: 4-18
        • Olson S.I.
        Assessment of impulsivity in preschoolers.
        J Clin Child Psychol. 1989; 18: 176-183
        • Pearson D.A.
        • Lane D.M.
        • Swanson J.M.
        Auditory attention switching in hyperactive children.
        J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1991; 19: 479-492
        • Ridderinkhof K.R.
        • Band G.P.H.
        • Logan G.D.
        A study of adaptive behavior.
        Acta Psychol. 1999; 101: 315-337
        • Schachar R.
        • Logan G.D.
        Impulsivity and inhibitory control in normal development and childhood psychopathology.
        Dev Psychol. 1990; 26: 710-720
        • Schlaghecken F.
        • Eimer M.
        Motor activation with and without inhibition.
        Percept Psychophys. 2002; 64: 148-162
        • Schiff A.R.
        • Knopf I.J.
        The effect of task demands on attention allocation in children of different ages.
        Child Dev. 1985; 56: 621-630
        • Sergeant J.A.
        Modeling attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2005; 57: 1248-1255
        • Simoneau M.
        • Markovits H.
        Reasoning with premises that are not empirically true.
        Dev Psychol. 2003; 39: 964-975
        • Sonuga-Barke E.J.
        Causal models of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2005; 57: 1231-1238
        • Stroop J.
        Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions.
        J Exp Psychol. 1935; 18: 643-662
        • Stuss D.T.
        • Benson D.F.
        The Frontal Lobes. Raven Press, New York1986
        • Tipper S.P.
        The negative priming effect.
        Q J Exp Psychol. 1985; 37A: 571-590
        • Tranel D.
        • Anderson S.W.
        • Benton A.
        Development of the concept of “executive function” and its relationship to the frontal lobes.
        in: Boller F. Grafman J. Handbook of Neuropsychology. vol 9. Elsevier, Amsterdam1994: 125-148
        • Wegner D.M.
        • Schneider D.J.
        • Carter III, S.R.
        • White T.L.
        Paradoxical effects of thought suppression.
        J Pers Soc Psychol. 1987; 53: 5-13
        • Welsh M.C.
        • Pennington B.F.
        • Grossier D.B.
        A normative-developmental study of executive function.
        Dev Neuropsychol. 1991; 7: 131-149
        • Wilding J.
        • Munir F.
        • Cornish K.
        The nature of attentional differences between groups of children differentiated by teacher ratings of attention and hyperactivity.
        Br J Psychol. 2001; 92: 357-371
        • Wilson R.S.
        • Kipp K.
        The development of efficient inhibition.
        Dev Rev. 1998; 18: 86-123
        • Woods S.P.
        • Lovejoy D.W.
        • Ball J.D.
        Neuropsychological characteristics of adults with ADHD.
        Clin Neuropsychol. 2002; 16: 12-34
        • Zelazo P.D.
        • Carter A.
        • Reznick J.S.
        • Frye D.
        Early development of executive function.
        Rev Gen Psychol. 1997; 1: 198-226
        • Zelazo P.D.
        • Muller U.
        Executive function in typical and atypical development.
        in: Goswami U. Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development. Blackwell, Malden, Massachusetts2002: 445-469