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Attention-deficit disorder (attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder without hyperactivity): A neurobiologically and behaviorally distinct disorder from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (with hyperactivity)


Most studies of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have focused on the combined type and emphasized a core problem in response inhibition. It is proposed here that the core problem in the truly inattentive type of ADHD (not simply the subthreshold combined type) is in working memory. It is further proposed that laboratory measures, such as complex-span and dual-task dichotic listening tasks, can detect this. Children with the truly inattentive type of ADHD, rather than being distractible, may instead be easily bored, their problem being more in motivation (underarousal) than in inhibitory control. Much converging evidence points to a primary disturbance in the striatum (a frontal–striatal loop) in the combined type of ADHD. It is proposed here that the primary disturbance in truly inattentive-type ADHD (ADD) is in the cortex (a frontal–parietal loop). Finally, it is posited that these are not two different types of ADHD, but two different disorders with different cognitive and behavioral profiles, different patterns of comorbidities, different responses to medication, and different underlying neurobiologies.Preparation of this manuscript was supported by grants from NIDA (R01 DA19685-16A2) and the McDonnell Foundation (JSMF Grant 21002016). The author gratefully thanks Russ Barkley, Dante Cicchetti, Michael Posner, and Margaret Weiss for comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. Of course, only the author bears responsibility for any errors in this paper.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Adele Diamond, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, 2255 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 2A1, Canada; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
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