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Despite separate phenotypes, autism spectrum disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are difficult to distinguish from one another and frequently co-occur. The effect of co-occurrence on individuals’ cognition is not well characterized. Abstract spatial reasoning has been indicated as a relative strength in autistic individuals, and a relative weakness in individuals with ADHD. To elucidate the effect of ADHD traits on spatial reasoning in the presence and absence of autistic traits, college students (N = 89) completed a cognitive battery consisting of an abstract spatial reasoning task, a concrete spatial reasoning task, a measure of attention, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), and the Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale (BDEFS). Contrary to many previous studies, there was no association between AQ score and abstract spatial reasoning performance (p > 0.1). Score on the AQ and score on the BDEFS had a strong positive correlation (p < 0.01). There was a nonsignificant trend for better abstract spatial reasoning performance among participants with a low AQ score and high BDEFS score (p = 0.06), opposite to the hypothesis. The failure of this study to capture frequently-replicated effects may be a result of relatively mild autistic and ADHD traits in the sample.
McElroy, Abigail, "Co-Occurring Autistic and ADHD Traits Do Not Affect Spatial Reasoning Ability" (2020). Neuroscience Presentations. 3.
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