Heterogeneity of executive functions among comorbid neurodevelopmental disorders

Dina R. Dajani, Maria M. Llabre, Mary Beth Nebel, Stewart H. Mostofsky, Lucina Q. Uddin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Executive functions (EFs) are used to set goals, plan for the future, inhibit maladaptive responses, and change behavior flexibly. Although some studies point to specific EF profiles in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-prevalent and often highly comorbid neurodevelopmental disorders-others have not differentiated them. The objective of the current study was to identify distinct profiles of EF across typically developing (TD) children and children with ASD and ADHD. We employed a latent profile analysis using indicators of EF (e.g., working memory, inhibition, and flexibility) in a mixed group of 8-13 year-olds including TD children (n = 128), children with ASD without ADHD (n = 30), children with ADHD (n = 93), and children with comorbid ASD and ADHD (n = 66). Three EF classes emerged: "above average," "average," and "impaired." EF classes did not reproduce diagnostic categories, suggesting that differences in EF abilities are present within the ASD and ADHD groups. Further, greater EF dysfunction predicted more severe socioemotional problems, such as anxiety/depression. These results highlight the heterogeneity of current diagnostic groups and identify an "impaired" EF group, consisting of children with both ASD and ADHD, which could specifically be targeted for EF intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36566
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Nov 9 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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