The executive functions in a sample of Italian adults with ADHD: attention, response inhibition and planning/organization

Rosa Angela Fabio, Tindara Caprì


Adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show an impaired functioning in multiple cognitive domains: executive functioning (EF), attention, response inhibition, planning and organization, reward and timing. However, the neuropsychological profile of these patients is unclear. Investigations of neuropsychological functioning in a sample of Italian adults with ADHD are currently lacking. The present study aimed at examining neuropsychological performance on tasks measuring executive functioning, attention response inhibition, planning and organization, comparing adults with ADHD (N= 23, mean age 19,7; SD= 3,27) and healthy adults (N= 23, mean age 19,7; SD= 3,27) matched for age and gender. Results showed that adults with ADHD present impaired EF, response inhibition and disorganization/planning. By contrast, they didn’t exhibit attention deficits. This study supports the persistence of cognitive impairments in subjects with ADHD also in adulthood.


Executive functions; Adult ADHD; Attention; Response inhibition; Planning

Full Text:



Adler, L. A., Spencer, T., Faraone, S. V., Kessler, R. C., Howes, M. J., Biederman, J., & Secnik, K. (2006). Validity of pilot Adult ADHD Self- Report Scale (ASRS) to Rate Adult ADHD symptoms. Ann Clin Psychiatry,18, 145-8.
Alderson, R. M., Kasper, L. J., Hudec, K. L., Patros, C. H. (2013). Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and working memory in adults: a meta-analytic review. Neuropsychology, 27, 287–302.
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. DC.
Boonstra, A. M., Kooij, J. J. S., Oosterlaan, J., Sergeant, J. A., & Buitelaar, J. K. (2010). To act or not to act, that’s the problem: Primarily inhibition difficulties in adult ADHD. Neuropsychology, 24, 209-221.
Bianchini, R., Postorino, V., Grasso, R., Santoro, S., Migliore, S., Burlo, C., Tata, C., & Mazzone, L. (2013). Prevalence of ADHD in a sample of Italian students: A population-based study. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 2543–2550.
Brickenkamp, R. & Zillmer, E. (1998). The d2 test of attention. Hogrefe & Huber.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.
Brown, T. E. (2013). A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults. Executive Function Impairments. Routledge: New York and London.
Dobson-Patterson, R., O’Gorman, J. G., Chan, R. C. K., & Shum, D. K. (2016). ADHD subtypes and neuropsychological performance in an adult sample. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 55, 55–6.
Fabio, R. A. (2017). The study of automatic and controlled processes in ADHD: a reread and a new proposal. Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 5, 1-33.
Fabio, R.A., & Antonietti, A. (2012). Effects of hypermedia instruction on declarative, conditional and procedural knowledge in ADHD students. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33, 2028–2039.
Fabio, R.A., & Urso, M.F. (2014). The analysis of Attention Network in ADHD, attention problems and typically developing subjects. Life Span and Disability, 17 (2), 199-221.
Fabio, R.A., & Caprì, T. (2015). Autobiographical Memory in ADHD Subtypes. Journal of Developmental and Intellectual Disability, 40, 1-11. DOI: 10.3109/13668250.2014.983057.
Fabio, R.A., Castriciano, C., & Rondanini, A. (2015). ADHD: Auditory and Visual Stimuli in Automatic and Controlled Processes. Journal of Attention Disorder, 19, 771-778, ISSN: 1087-0547, doi: 10.1177/1087054712459562
Feige, B., Biscaldi, M., Saville, C. W., Kluckert, C., Bender, S., Ebner Priemer, U., Hennighausen, K., Rauh, R., Fleischhaker, C., & Klein, C. (2013). On the temporal characteristics of performance variability in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). PLoSOne, 8(10), 696-674.
Frigerio, A., Rucci, P., Goodman, R., Ammaniti, M., Carlet, O., Cavolina, P., et al. (2009). Prevalence and correlates of mental disorders among adolescents in Italy: The PrISMA study. European Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 18, 217–226.
Frigerio, A., Vanzin, L., Pastore, V., Nobile, M., Giorda, R., Marino, C., et al. (2006). The Italian Preadolescent Mental Health Project (PrISMA): Rationale and methods. International Journal of Methods and Psychiatric Research, 15, 22–35.
Fuermaier, A. B. M., Tucha, L., Koerts, J., Aschenbrenner, S., Weisbrod, M., Lange, K. W., & Tucha, O. (2014). Cognitive complains of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 28, 1104-1122.
Fuermaier, A. B.,Tucha, L., Koerts, J., Aschenbrenner, S., Kaun-zinger, I., Hauser, J., Weisbrod, M., Lange, K.W., & Tucha,O. (2015). Cognitive impairment in adult ADHD perspective matters. Neuropsychology, 29, 45–58.
Gmehlin, D., Fuermaier, A. B.,Walther, S., Debelak, R., Rentrop, M., Westermann, C., Sharma, A., Tucha, L., Koerts, J., Tucha, O., Weisbrod, M., & Aschenbrenner, S. (2014). Intraindividual variability in inhibitory function in adults with ADHD an ex Gaussian approach. PLoSOne, 9,112-298.
Grane, V. A., Endestad, T., Pinto, A. F., & Solbakk, A. K. (2014). Attentional control and subjective executive function in treatment- naive adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. PLoSOne, 9,115-227.
Halleland, H. B., Haavik, J., & Lundervold, A. J. (2012). Set shifting in adults with ADHD. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 18, 728-737.
Hervey, A. S., Epstein, J. N., & Curry, J. F. (2004). Neuropsychology of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analytic review. Neuropsychology,18, 485–503.
Holst, Y., & Thorell, L. (2017). Neuropsychological Functioning in Adults With ADHD and Adults With Other Psychiatric Disorders. Journal of Attention Disorders, 21(2), 137-148.
Kessler, R. C., Adler, L., Ames, M., Demler, O., Faraone, S., Hiripi, E., et al. (2005). The World Health Organization Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS): a short screening scale for use in the general population. Psychological Medicine, 35, 245-56.
Liverta Sempio, O., Fabio, R.A., Tiezzi, P., & Cedro, C. (2016). Parental and teachers attachment in children at risk of ADHD and with ADHD. Life span and disability, 29, 57-77.
Lozano, Ó. M., Carmona, J., Muñoz-Silva, A., Fernández-Calderón, F., Díaz-Batanero, C., & Sanchez-Garcia, M. (2016). Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale: Comprehensive Psychometric Study in a Spanish SUD Sample. Journal of Attention Disorders, 1-11.
Lundervold, A. J., Halleland, H. B., Brevik, E. J., Haavik, J., & Søren-sen, L. (2015). Verbal memory function in intellectually well-functioning adults with ADHD: relations to working memory and response inhibition. Journal of Attention Disorders.
Lucas, É. (1883). Récréations mathématiques, Vol. 3. Paris: Gauthier-Villars,
MacLeod, C. M. (1991). Half a century of research on the Stroop effect: An integrated review. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 163–203.
Marx, I., Hubner, T., Herpertz, S. C., Berger, C., Reuter, E., Kircher, T., Herpertz Dahlmann, B., & Konrad, K. (2010). Cross-sectional evaluation of cognitive functioning in children, adolescents and young adults with ADHD. Journal of Neural Transmission, 117, 403–419.
Mento, C. (2017). Clinical Psychology and Psychoanalysis between diagnosis and therapy. Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 5, 1-2.
Mostert, J. C., et al. (2015). Cognitive heterogeneity in adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic analysis of neuropsychological measurements. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 1-13.
Mugnaini, D., Masi, G., Brovedani, P., Chelazzi, C., Matas, M., Romagnoli, C., et al. (2006). Teacher reports of ADHD symptoms in Italian children at the end of first grade. European Psychiatry, 21, 419–426.
Rohlf, H., Jucksch, V., Gawrilow, C., Huss M., Hein, J., Lehmkuh, U., & Salbach-Andrae, H. (2012). Set shifting and working memory in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Neural Transmission, 119, 95-106.
Salomone, S., Fleming, G. R., Bramham, J., O’Connell, R. G., & Robertson, I. H. (2016). Neuropsychological Deficits in Adult ADHD: Evidence for Differential Attentional Impairments, Deficient Executive Functions, and High Self-Reported Functional Impairments. Journal of Attention Disorders, 1-12.
Schoechlin, C., & Engel, R. R. (2005). Neuropsychological performance in adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: meta-analysis of empirical data the official journal of the National Academy of Neuropsychologists. Archivies Clinical Neuropsychology, 20, 727–744.
Settineri, S., & Mento, C. (2014). Psicologia e Psicodiagnostica clinica.
Skodzik, T., Holling, H., & Pedersen, A. (2017). Long-term memory performance in adult ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 2, 267-283.
Woods, S. P., Lovejoy, D. W., & Ball, J. D. (2002). Neuropsychological characteristics of adults with ADHD: a comprehensive review of initial studies. Clinical Neuropsychology, 16,12–34.



  • There are currently no refbacks.