Cognitive correlates of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents with high intellectual ability

María Cadenas, Catharina Hartman, Stephen Faraone, Kevin Antshel, África Borges, Lianne Hoogeveen, Nanda Rommelse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: There is an ongoing debate as to whether attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in highly intelligent individuals has a similar presentation as in average intelligent individuals. The aim of this study was to examine the cognitive correlates of ADHD in highly intelligent children and adolescents with ADHD. Method: Two independent samples (N = 204 and N = 84) of (1) high intelligence quotient (IQ) (IQ ≥ 120) children and adolescents with ADHD were used, carefully matched on age, gender, ADHD severity, and IQ with (2) control participants with high intelligence, (3) participants with ADHD with an average intelligence (IQ 90-110), and (4) control participants with an average intelligence. These samples were selected from the Dutch node of the International Multicenter ADHD Genetics (NeuroIMAGE) and Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS) cohorts, respectively, in which a large battery of cognitive tasks was administered. Linear mixed models were used to examine the main effects of ADHD and IQ and their interaction on cognitive performance. Results: ADHD-control group differences were not moderated by IQ; mostly equally large ADHD-control differences in cognitive performance were found for high versus average intelligent groups. The small moderating effects found mostly indicated somewhat milder cognitive problems in highly intelligent individuals with ADHD. Overall, highly intelligent children and adolescents with ADHD performed at the level of the average intelligent control children. Conclusions: Our findings indicate the cognitive profile of ADHD is similar in highly versus average intelligent individuals with ADHD, although ADHD-related cognitive deficits may be easily overlooked in the high intelligence population when compared to the typical (i.e., average intelligent) control group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 10 2020


  • ADHD
  • Cognition
  • Giftedness
  • High intelligence
  • Twice exceptional

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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