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Contrasting deficits on executive functions between ADHD and reading disabled children


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.

Gian Marco Marzocchi, Department of Psychology, University of Milan–Bicocca, Piazza Ateneo Nuovo, 1–20126 Milan, Italy; Tel: +39 02 64483752; Fax: +39 02 64483706; Email:


Background:  The object of this study was to analyze the executive functioning of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or reading disability (RD) independent of their non-executive deficits.

Methods:  Three carefully diagnosed groups of children, aged between 7 and 12 years (35 ADHD, 22 RD and 30 typically developing children), were tested on a wide range of tasks related to five major domains of executive functioning (EF): inhibition, visual working memory, planning, cognitive flexibility, and verbal fluency. Additional tasks were selected for each domain to control for non-executive processing.

Results:  ADHD children were impaired on interference control, but not on prepotent and ongoing response suppression. ADHD showed deficits on visual working memory, planning, cognitive flexibility and phonetic fluency. RD children were impaired on phonetic fluency. The only EF measure that differentiated ADHD from RD was planning.

Conclusions:  The present sample of ADHD children showed several EF deficits, whereas RD children were almost spared executive dysfunction, but exhibited deficits in phonetic fluency.