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Executive functioning in children with autism and Tourette syndrome

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2005

The main aims of this study were to investigate if children with high-functioning autism (HFA) and children with Tourette syndrome (TS) can be differentiated in their executive functioning (EF) profile compared to normal controls (NCs) and compared to each other and to investigate whether children with HFA or children with TS and a comorbid group of children with both disorders are distinct conditions in terms of EF. Four groups of children participated in this study: HFA, TS, comorbid HFA + TS, and a NC group. All children were in the age range of 6 to 13 years. The groups were compared on five major domains of EF: inhibition, visual working memory, planning, cognitive flexibility, and verbal fluency. Children with HFA scored lower than NC children on all the EFs measured. Children with TS and NC children showed the same EF profile. The HFA group scored lower than the TS group for inhibition of a prepotent response and cognitive flexibility. Children with HFA performed poorer than children with comorbid HFA + TS on all functions, with the exception of inhibiting an ongoing response, interference control, and verbal fluency. Children with TS and children with comorbid HFA + TS could not be differentiated from one another in terms of EF. This study indicates that EF deficits are highly characteristic of children with HFA in comparison to children with TS and NC. The results suggest that for the comparison between HFA and TS groups, it is important to take into account comorbidity. A reevaluation of the EF hypothesis in children with TS is suggested.We thank the children and parents without whose participation this research would not have been possible.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Sylvie Verté, Research Group Developmental Disorders, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium; 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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