December 4, 2023

Meta-analysis Finds Narrative Language Impairment in Youths with ADHD

Youths with ADHD are known to be more prone to language problems when compared with typically developing peers. To what extent does that affect their ability to share a narrative with others?

A Danish research team conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the peer-reviewed medical literature to explore this question. They stressed that this ability is important because "a narrative is a genre of discourse - a form of social communication used to derive meaning from experiences and to construct a shared understanding of events. In other words, it is the fundamental ability of orally producing a coherent story." They focused on the production of narratives rather than comprehension.

Studies had to have a minimum of 10 participants. They had to compare aspects of oral narrative production in children and adolescents with either a formal ADHD diagnosis or a score above a clinical cut-off on a validated ADHD rating scale to a control group of typically developing youths. Youths with confirmed autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or language impairment diagnoses were excluded. There were no constraints on IQ.

The team found sixteen studies with a combined total of 1,015 youths that met these criteria and were suitable for meta-analysis.

They examined seven aspects of oral narrative production:

·        Coherence: A story structure that is logical and easy to follow in cause and sequence. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end. There are goals, attempts, and outcomes. A meta-analysis of nine studies with a combined total of 750 participants found youths with ADHD less coherent than their typically developing peers, with a medium effect size. There was virtually no between-study heterogeneity and no sign of publication bias.
·        Cohesion: This ensures referencing of events and characters in a manner that enables the listener to grasp how characters, events, and ideas in a story are related. Ambiguous or contradictory references get in the way of this. A meta-analysis of eight studies with a combined total of 501 participants found youths with ADHD showed less cohesion than their typically developing peers, with a medium effect size. Again, with virtually no between-study heterogeneity, and no sign of publication bias.
·        Disruptions: These can be sequence errors, misinterpretations, embellishments, or confabulations - fabricating imaginary experiences as compensation for loss of memory. A meta-analysis of six studies with 389 participants found youths with ADHD had more disruptions than their typically developing peers, with a small-to-medium effect size. There was virtually no between-study heterogeneity and no sign of publication bias.
·        Fluency: Best explained in terms of errors that interfere with this quality, such as false starts, repeating words or sentences, and abandoning sentences without completing them. A meta-analysis of four studies with 220 participants found no difference in fluency between youths with ADHD and their typically developing peers.
·        Production: This is a measure of output -overall length of the story, number of sentences, number of words. After adjusting for evidence of publication bias, a meta-analysis of twelve studies with 645 participants found no difference here.
·        Syntactic complexity: This includes the extent of vocabulary and the use of proper grammar. A meta-analysis of six studies with 272 participants found youths with ADHD displayed less syntactic complexity than their typically developing peers, with a small-to-medium effect size. There was virtually no between-study heterogeneity and no sign of publication bi
·        Internal state language: References to perceptions, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. There were only two studies with 130 participants, so no meta-analysis was performed.

The authors concluded, "the results from the current meta-analysis suggest that children with ADHD have impairments in their narrative language. In particular, children with ADHD produce narratives that are less coherent, less cohesive, less syntactically complex, and include more disruptive errors than typically developing children do."

Ida Bonnerup Jepsen, Esben Hougaard, Susan Tomczak Matthiesen, Rikke Lambek, "A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Narrative LanguageAbilities in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder," Researchon Child and Adolescent Psychopathology (2021), published online,

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News Tuesday: Fidgeting and ADHD

A recent study delved into the connection between fidgeting and cognitive performance in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Recognizing that hyperactivity often manifests as fidgeting, the researchers sought to understand its role in attention and performance during cognitively demanding tasks. They designed a framework to quantify meaningful fidgeting variables using actigraphy devices.

(Note: Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles. It involves the use of a small, wearable device called an actigraph or actimetry sensor, typically worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The actigraph records movement data over extended periods, often days to weeks, to track sleep patterns, activity levels, and circadian rhythms. In this study, actigraphy devices were used to measure fidgeting by recording the participants' movements continuously during the cognitive task. This data provided objective, quantitative measures of fidgeting, allowing the researchers to analyze its relationship with attention and task performance.)

The study involved 70 adult participants aged 18-50, all diagnosed with ADHD. Participants underwent a thorough screening process, including clinical interviews and ADHD symptom ratings. The analysis revealed that fidgeting increased during correct trials, particularly in participants with consistent reaction times, suggesting that fidgeting helps sustain attention. Interestingly, fidgeting patterns varied between early and later trials, further highlighting its role in maintaining focus over time.

Additionally, a correlation analysis validated the relevance of the newly defined fidget variables with ADHD symptom severity. This finding suggests that fidgeting may act as a compensatory mechanism for individuals with ADHD, aiding in their ability to maintain attention during tasks requiring cognitive control.

This study provides valuable insights into the role of fidgeting in adults with ADHD, suggesting that it may help sustain attention during challenging cognitive tasks. By introducing and validating new fidget variables, the researchers hope to standardize future quantitative research in this area. Understanding the compensatory role of fidgeting can lead to better management strategies for ADHD, emphasizing the potential benefits of movement for maintaining focus.

July 16, 2024

Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

NEWS TUESDAY: Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

A recent study investigated the presence of autistic-like symptoms in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given the overlapping social difficulties in both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguishing between the two disorders can be challenging. This study aims to pinpoint specific patterns of autistic symptoms in children with ADHD, comparing them to those with ASD using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2).

The research involved 43 school-age children divided into two groups:

  • ADHD Group (25 children): Initially referred for ASD symptoms but later diagnosed with ADHD.
  • ASD Group (18 children): Children diagnosed with ASD.

Researchers used ADOS-2 to evaluate differences in communication deficits, social interaction challenges, and repetitive behaviors between the two groups. The study also compared IQ, age, ADOS-2 domain scores, and externalizing/internalizing problems.

Key Findings:

  • Significant differences were found between the ADHD and ASD groups in ADOS-2 domain scores, including Social Affect, Restricted and Repetitive Behavior, and Total Score.
  • On an individual item level, children with ADHD displayed similar atypical behaviors as those with ASD in social-communication areas such as "Pointing" and "Gestures".
  • Both groups showed comparable frequencies in behaviors like "Stereotyped/idiosyncratic words or phrases", "Mannerisms", and "Repetitive interests and behaviors".

The study highlights the importance of identifying transdiagnostic domains that overlap between ADHD and ASD. The transdiagnostic domain refers to a set of symptoms or behaviors that are common across multiple diagnostic categories rather than being specific to just one. Identifying these domains in mental health practice and in psychological research is crucial to understanding, properly diagnosing, and treating conditions with overlapping features. This understanding could pave the way for tailored treatments addressing the specific needs of children with ADHD, particularly those exhibiting autistic-like symptoms.

July 9, 2024

Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

NEW STUDY: Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults is commonly treated with stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines. However, not all patients respond well to these stimulants or tolerate them effectively. For such cases, non-stimulant medications provide an alternative treatment approach.

Recent research by Brancati et al. reviews the efficacy and safety of non-stimulant medications for adult ADHD. Atomoxetine, a well-studied non-stimulant, has shown significant effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms in adults. The review highlights the importance of considering dosage, treatment duration, safety, and the presence of psychiatric comorbidities when prescribing atomoxetine.

Additionally, certain antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds, bupropion, and viloxazine, which possess noradrenergic or dopaminergic properties, have demonstrated efficacy in managing adult ADHD. Antihypertensive medications, especially guanfacine, have also been found effective. Other medications like memantine, metadoxine, and mood stabilizers show promise, whereas treatments like galantamine, antipsychotics, and cannabinoids have not yielded positive results.

The expert opinion section of the review emphasizes that while clinical guidelines primarily recommend atomoxetine as a second-line treatment, several other non-stimulant options can be utilized to tailor treatments based on individual patient needs and comorbid conditions. Despite these advancements, the authors call for further research to develop and refine more personalized treatment strategies for adults with ADHD.

This review underscores the growing landscape of non-stimulant treatment options, offering hope for more personalized and effective management of ADHD in adults.

June 25, 2024