Differences in executive functioning in children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
Children with either fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) display deficits in attention and executive function (EF) and differential diagnosis of these two clinical groups may be difficult, especially when information about prenatal alcohol exposure is unavailable. The current study compared EF performance of three groups: children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure (ALC); nonexposed children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and typically developing controls (CON). Both clinical groups met diagnostic criteria for ADHD. The EF tasks used were the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT), and the Trail Making Test (TMT). Results indicated different patterns of deficit; both clinical groups displayed deficits on the WCST and a relative weakness on letter versus category fluency. Only the ALC group displayed overall deficits on letter fluency and a relative weakness on TMT-B versus TMT-A. In addition, WCST performance was significantly lower than expected based on IQ in the ADHD group and significantly higher than expected in the ALC group. These results, which indicate that, although EF deficits occurred in both clinical groups, the degree and pattern of deficit differed between the ALC and ADHD groups, may improve differential diagnosis. (JINS, 2008, 14, 119–129.)(Received October 6 2006)
(Revised July 24 2007)
(Accepted July 27 2007)
Key Words: Fetal alcohol syndrome; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; Differential diagnosis; FAS; ADHD; Neuropsychological function.
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