Visual search in ADHD, ASD and ASD + ADHD: overlapping or dissociating disorders?

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Seernani, D
Damania, K
Ioannou, C
Penkalla, N
Hill, H
Foulsham, T
Kingstone, A
Anderson, N
Boccignone, G
Bender, S
Smyrnis, N
Biscaldi, M
Ebner-Priemer, U
Klein, Christoph
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Recent debates in the literature discuss commonalities between Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at multiple levels of putative causal networks. This debate requires systematic comparisons between these disorders that have been studied in isolation in the past, employing potential markers of each disorder to be investigated in tandem. The present study, choose superior local processing, typical to ASD, and increased Intra-Subject Variability (ISV), typical to ADHD, for a head-to-head comparison of the two disorders, while also considering the comorbid cases. It directly examined groups of participants aged 10-13 years with ADHD, ASD with (ASD+) or without (ASD-) comorbid ADHD and a typically developing (TD) group (total N = 85). A visual search task consisting of an array of paired words was designed. The participants needed to find the specific pair of words, where the first word in the pair was the cue word. This visual search task was selected to compare these groups on overall search performance and trial-to-trial variability of search performance (i.e., ISV). Additionally, scanpath analysis was also carried out using Recurrence Quantification Analysis (RQA) and the Multi-Match Model. Results show that only the ASD- group exhibited superior search performance; whereas, only the groups with ADHD symptoms showed increased ISV. These findings point towards a double dissociation between ASD and ADHD, and argue against an overlap between ASD and ADHD.

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European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
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© The Authors 2020. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.
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Clinical sciences
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Intra-subject variability (ISV)
Local processing
Visual search
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Seernani, D; Damania, K; Ioannou, C; Penkalla, N; Hill, H; Foulsham, T; Kingstone, A; Anderson, N; Boccignone, G; Bender, S; Smyrnis, N; Biscaldi, M; Ebner-Priemer, U; Klein, C, Visual search in ADHD, ASD and ASD + ADHD: overlapping or dissociating disorders?, European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2021, 30 (4), pp. 549-562