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Original Research

Cognitive Development in Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Controlled Study in Medication-Naive Adults Across the Adult Life Cycle

Joseph Biederman, MD; Ronna Fried, EdD; Carter R. Petty, MA; Janet Wozniak, MD; Alysa E. Doyle, PhD; Aude Henin, PhD; Lyndsey Corkum, BA; Kim Claudat, BA; and Stephen V. Faraone, PhD

Published: October 5, 2010

Article Abstract

Objective: This study evaluated the association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and psychometrically defined cognitive variables across the adult life span, using data from a large controlled study of adults with and without ADHD.

Method: Comparisons were made between 2 groups of adults: participants with DSM-IV-diagnosed ADHD who had never received pharmacotherapy for their ADHD (n = 116) and 146 control participants. Subjects received a battery assessing IQ, neuropsychological measures, and academic testing. We modeled cognitive measures as a function of age and group status using linear regression. The study was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, between 1998 and 2003.

Results: ADHD and control subjects maintained similar, statistically significant differences in all psychometrically assessed measures of cognition within each decade that was represented (all P values < .01).

Conclusion: The negative impact of ADHD on multiple, nonoverlapping, psychometrically assessed measures of cognition remained constant across the life cycle, suggesting that the association between ADHD and cognition neither improves nor deteriorates across the life cycle.

J Clin Psychiatry

Submitted: June 8, 2009; accepted August 24, 2009.

Online ahead of print: October 5, 2010 (doi:10.4088/JCP.09m05420pur).

Corresponding author: Joseph Biederman, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit, 55 Fruit St, YAW 6A-6900, Boston, MA 02114 (

Volume: 71

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