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Old 06-19-12, 05:29 AM
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ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

I have noticed that the question of whether or not ADHD covaries with higher or lower intelligence interests many posters on this forum.

The issue periodically reappears in new threads and unfortunately tends to get bogged down sooner or later in the technical minutiae of IQ tests and their validity and measures of human intelligence.

In what follows I'd like to avoid this by going back to basics and looking at the nature of intelligence from the biological/neuropsychological perspective, and then seeing what the science says about the implications for ADHD.

INTELLIGENCE - A BASIC DEFINITION

Most basic definitions of of intelligence say something to the effect that: intelligence is the ability to reason, to understand , and to profit from experience.

For over one hundred years to date scientific research in neuropsychology and related disciplines has proposed that these abilities are located in the human prefrontal cortex, whose overall role is the coordination of high -level cognitive "Executive Functions" like working memory, planning and problem-solving.

British researcher, John Duncan and his team sought the location of general intelligence (the so-called "g" factor) in the brains of average people. They used tasks that required reasoning and were known to correlate with general intelligence more than with any specific ability.

Duncan and co. found that although verbal and spatial tasks had different patterns of activation, prefrontal activation was common to both tasks; he therefore concluded that general intelligence was probably located there.

cf: (1) Duncan, J. et al (2000) A Neural Basis for General Intelligence. Science. 289, 457-460.

There is support for this view in the fact that frontal damage impairs general intelligence more than performance on traditional IQ tests which emphasise crystallised intelligence (i.e; skills and information learned earlier); more posterior lesions do not have this effect.

cf: (2) Duncan, J. et al, (1995) Fluid Intelligence after Frontal lobe Lesions, Neuropsychologia, 33, 261-268.

(3) Gray and Thompson (20004), Neurobiology of Intelligence: Science and Ethics. Nature Neuroscience, 5, 471-482.



Because frontal areas are involved in working memory and executive control of problem-solving, it is not surprising that they would contribute to general intelligence.


With regard to ADHD, there is increasing evidence that ADHD arrises from deficiencies in the development, structure and function of the prefrontal cortex and its networks with other brain regions, especially the striatum and cerebellum. Given this, it seems probable that general intelligence will be impaired in persons with ADHD. Such a likelihood makes sense, for instance , of the fact that research studies for the past three decades to date have consistently found significantly reduced IQ scores in individuals with ADHD across the lifespan.


BRAIN SIZE and INTELLIGENCE - ADHD is associated with reduced overall Brain Volume


Within a species brain size has been found to correlate with intelligence. That is, on average more intelligent brains are larger brains.

MRI neuroimaging studies have found correlations between brain size and measures of intelligence; a compilation of 37 samples involving 1,530 people found a modest correlation of 0.33. (cf: McDaniel, 2005, Big-Brained people are smarter. A Meta-analysis of the relationship between in vivo brain volume and intelligence. Intelligence, 33, 337-346). Squaring the correlation coefficient tells us that about 11% of the difference among people in intelligence is related to brain size.

Neuroimaging studies indicate that ADHD is associated with about a 5% reduction in total brain volume and a 10-12% reduction in the size of key brain regions (like the prefrontal cortex) involved in the higher-order control of behaviour.


NERVE CONDUCTION VELOCITY and MYELINATION- their relation to general intelligence and ADHD.



IQ scores are also correlated with nerve conduction velocity. (cf McGarry-Roberts, Stelmack and Campbell, 1992 , Intelligence, Reaction Time, and event-related potentials. Intelligence. 16, 289-313. Vernon and Mori (1992) Intelligence, Reaction Times, and Peripheral Nerve Conduction Velocity. Intelligence. 16. 273-288.)

Faster nerve conduction probably makes its contribution through improved central processing efficiency and enhanced myelination of the brain's neurones ( cf: A.R. Jenson (1998). The "g" Factor. Westport, CT:Praeger.)

Myelin both improves conduction speed and and insulates neurones from each other; reducing cross-talk that would otherwise interfere with accurate processing.

Myelination, speed of information processing and intelligence all follow a curvilinear path, increasing from childhood to maturity, then declining in old age.

ADHD patients have been reported to have reduced white matter (myelination). (cf: Castellanos et al (2002) Developmental Trajectories of Brain Volume Abnormalities in children and Adolescents with ADHD. Journal of the American Medical Association. 288. 1740-1748.)
In addition, Elizabeth Sowell found decreased volume in prefrontal and lateral temporal cortex and denser gray matter in the posterior temporal and inferior parietal cortex, probably due to missing myelination (i.e., white matter was reduced overall) (cf; Sowell, E et al, 2003, Cortical Abnormalities in children and Adolescents with ADHD. Lancet, 362, 1699-1707.)



WORKING Memory, IQ and ADHD.



Many theorists believe that short-term memory is the ultimate limitation on human reasoning and problem-solving ability. It is a fact that short-term memory is a good predictor of IQ ( Miller and Vernon, 1992, The general factor in Short-Term Memory, Intelligence and Reaction Time. Intelligence. 16, 5-29.). Increased nerve conduction velocity may particularly enhance the efficiency of Working Memory, (which is a manifestation of Short-Term memory). Working Memory is also correlated with both gray and white matter volume, just as is general intelligence. (cf; Posthuma et al 2002, The Association between Brain Volume and Intelligence is of Genetic Origin. Nature Neuroscience. 5. 83-84.)


With regards ADHD, there is now good evidence that Working Memory is, in fact, impaired in the disorder.


(Cf (1) Martinussen R et al, 2005, A Meta-Analysis of Working Memory Impairments in Children with ADHD. Journal of the American Acadamy of Child and Adolescent psychiatry, 44, 377-384. and (2) Willicutt, E.G. et al , 2005, Validity of the Executive Function Theory of ADHD. A Meta-Analytic Review. Boilogical Psychiatry, 57 (11) , 1336-1346.).

This suggests that ADHD might b well expected to covary with reduced general intelligence and lower IQ; and again, the data we have to date from many studies of IQ in persons with ADHD we have to date suggests that this is in fact the case.

In sumary, from the biological perspective, ADHD is is known to be associated with reduced brain volume both overall ,and in particular in critical regions like the prefrontal cortex, reduced myelination, and impaired general functioning of the prefrontal cortex and the Executive Functions, in particular, Working Memory and problem -solving that it mediates. As all of these are factors linked to general intelligence, it seems likely that individuals with the disorder have lower 'G' factors than persons without the disorder.

Last edited by JOHNCG; 06-19-12 at 05:47 AM..
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Old 06-19-12, 09:42 AM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

Bummer
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Old 06-19-12, 03:47 PM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

Yep, it is a bummer eh? John, just came to take a peek and see what pot you're stirring.
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Old 06-20-12, 01:21 PM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

Given the above average intelligence clearly needed to research, organize and formulate this post, I guess you should consider yourself lucky you don't have ADHD!!!
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Old 06-20-12, 01:22 PM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

He does have ADHD, this stimulates him.
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Old 06-20-12, 03:04 PM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

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Originally Posted by ginniebean View Post
He does have ADHD, this stimulates him.
lol, just like playing devil's advocate stimulates me
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Old 06-20-12, 04:02 PM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

So many here on this internet forum have above average intelligence and yet have AD(H)D diagnoses. So? Tell us something else new. I would assume the bell curve applies in this case as it does in so many others. Sheer probability assures that there will be those on the far slope who have higher intelligence and AD(H)D. Are we representative? Probably not.

Of course it's arguable whether this applies to the "ADD in college" set. I have my own doubts -- which I have expressed elsewhere.
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Old 06-21-12, 01:25 AM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

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Originally Posted by K-Funk View Post
Given the above average intelligence clearly needed to research, organize and formulate this post, I guess you should consider yourself lucky you don't have ADHD!!!
Not if he forgets to pay his bills, wash his clothes, go to sleep, etc. while typing it up! The problem with ADHD isn't that we can't get things done, it's that we can't get the correct things done.
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Old 06-22-12, 12:16 AM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

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Originally Posted by Drewbacca View Post
Not if he forgets to pay his bills, wash his clothes, go to sleep, etc. while typing it up! The problem with ADHD isn't that we can't get things done, it's that we can't get the correct things done.
That's a very good point, Drewbacca.
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Old 06-22-12, 01:15 AM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

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Originally Posted by ginniebean View Post
He does have ADHD, this stimulates him.
Yes, but to be fair, Ginnie, the discussions I start are also about relevant and important - never trivial- ADHD issues, the kind that I think need to be debated on a public forum.

I cannot help it that ADDF is an open-access public forum whose resident (and sizeable) "peanut gallery" will inevitably "go off" like champaign corks whenever a challenging or controversial ADHD topic is presented?? To be honest, I do admit a little schadenfreude, because sometimes it can be quite funny; but if that were my sole purpose in sending posts, well, it would be pretty poor sport really, Ginnie, wouldn't it?

For example, I think that it is vital for the ADHD community to debate the high comorbidity of the disorder in adults with Antisocial Personality Disorder because I think this issue, in particular, is looming as one of the most all-bracing questions of political change for the ADHD community in the West.

Yet when I begin a post on the matter I am accused of "trolling". (Which I think means cyber-vandalising?)


Likewise, the need to generally tighten up and make more objective the diagnostic process for adults with suspected ADHD, given material evidence of over- diagnosis and the problem of individuals faking symptoms (which is easy to do)
in order to access stimulant drugs like Dexedrine, etc; for performance enhancement.


When I said in posts, regarding this, it would be a very good idea if clinicians evaluating adults for ADHD began increasingly to make clear a professional expectation that hard, historical documentary evidence of (psychosocial) impairment form a part of the diagnostic process, I was told by most posters that I was crazy.

It doesn't bother me because I think that ADHD is a very serious social issue and stirring up debate on legitimate ADHD issues is always a good thing.
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Old 06-22-12, 01:51 AM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by JOHNCG View Post
Yes, but to be fair, Ginnie, the discussions I start are also about relevant and important - never trivial- ADHD issues, the kind that I think need to be debated on a public forum.

I cannot help it that ADDF is an open-access public forum whose resident (and sizeable) "peanut gallery" will inevitably "go off" like champaign corks whenever a challenging or controversial ADHD topic is presented?? To be honest, I do admit a little schadenfreude, because sometimes it can be quite funny; but if that were my sole purpose in sending posts, well, it would be pretty poor sport really, Ginnie, wouldn't it?
If you were more willing to examine your assumptions and accept criticism when your ideas are not supported by existing evidence, perhaps you'd perceive less hostility in response to your claims. I agree some people have been inappropriately hostile in response to you. I do not think, however, that every dissenting opinion in your threads is hostile, and some actually try to discuss with you, only to be brushed off with insulting comments on your part.

Quote:
For example, I think that it is vital for the ADHD community to debate the high comorbidity of the disorder in adults with Antisocial Personality Disorder because I think this issue, in particular, is looming as one of the most all-bracing questions of political change for the ADHD community in the West.

Yet when I begin a post on the matter I am accused of "trolling". (Which I think means cyber-vandalising?)
You didn't begin a post on the matter. You began a post claiming that ADHD is a form of antisocial personality disorder. The fact is that ADHD tends to be correlated with a higher comorbidity rate with personality disorders and general and cluster B personality disorders in specific, not primarily with ASPD. ADHD itself is not correlated with behaviors and thinking styles that are considered central to ASPD. The two are very clearly distinct disorders with their own presentation.

I certainly have no argument with the evidence that there is a higher occurrence of personality disorders with ADHD. But I do have an argument with claims that because ADHD can be profiled via the "Big Five" that means it's probably a personality disorder as well.

Quote:
Likewise, the need to generally tighten up and make more objective the diagnostic process for adults with suspected ADHD, given material evidence of over- diagnosis and the problem of individuals faking symptoms (which is easy to do)
in order to access stimulant drugs like Dexedrine, etc; for performance enhancement.
This is entirely separate from telling people that their diagnoses are suspect and likely wrong, especially when using arbitrary criteria such as "you are too happy to receive your ADHD diagnosis to really have ADHD." When you argue this, you make it personal and actually aim it at inviduals when you have no valid means to discredit or confirm their diagnoses in the first place.

Quote:
When I said in posts, regarding this, it would be a very good idea if clinicians evaluating adults for ADHD began increasingly to make clear a professional expectation that hard, historical documentary evidence of (psychosocial) impairment form a part of the diagnostic process, I was told by most posters that I was crazy.
This is because such a process is impossible for many of us. I don't have a paper trail because I have had so little work throughout my adult life, my mother actually lost my school records at some point because she never bothered to pass them along to me and I never thought I might ever need them for anything. That's assuming I wouldn't have lost it, because I have lost a lot of paperwork over the years. I also never sought out performance reviews after being fired from any job. I can't get traffic violations because I can't drive.

You can't apply a one size fits all solution to everyone and expect it to make sense. How can someone who has ADHD maintain a continuous trail of paperwork just in case they might need to be diagnosed with something when ADHD impairs the mechanisms that would actually make it easy to maintain that paperwork. I would suspect if someone had that much documentation at hand, that would actually count against having ADHD.

You didn't have a discussion on this subject. You made a proclamation and then complained that people didn't agree with you. You often make insulting generalizations about people who don't simply fall into line when you deliver your pronouncements. For example, in this thread - where no one has disagreed with you - you went off about people popping like champagne corks because they can't deal with your statements. Which itself really trivializes the time and effort people have put into trying to engage your arguments and explain why they are incorrect.

I do not think everything you post is incorrect. I recall a post you made a few days ago that I think was completely correct. I agree with this one as well. I don't disagree with you because you make challenging assertions that I can't cope with. I disagree with you because you say things that are factually wrong.

Quote:
It doesn't bother me because I think that ADHD is a very serious social issue and stirring up debate on legitimate ADHD issues is always a good thing.
Except you don't debate. You're right and everyone who disagrees is wrong. That's not debate, that's a lecture.
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Old 06-22-12, 02:59 AM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by JOHNCG View Post
Yes, but to be fair, Ginnie, the discussions I start are also about relevant and important - never trivial- ADHD issues, the kind that I think need to be debated on a public forum.

I cannot help it that ADDF is an open-access public forum whose resident (and sizeable) "peanut gallery" will inevitably "go off" like champaign corks whenever a challenging or controversial ADHD topic is presented?? To be honest, I do admit a little schadenfreude, because sometimes it can be quite funny; but if that were my sole purpose in sending posts, well, it would be pretty poor sport really, Ginnie, wouldn't it?
I think I may be one of the few who do 'get' you on here. Now, I agree you do bring up serious topics and ones that do need to be debated. That they are so consistently controversial, well I know where that comes from too!

But to be fair, I will say you do not bring up topics for the sole purpose of stirring up the crap and I've said many times that the posts you bring up, while not comfortable, and definitely challenge people, are relevant and worth taking a go at. I don't think you expect people to agree with you, and you play devils advocate well.



Quote:
For example, I think that it is vital for the ADHD community to debate the high comorbidity of the disorder in adults with Antisocial Personality Disorder because I think this issue, in particular, is looming as one of the most all-bracing questions of political change for the ADHD community in the West.
Why do you think this is 'looming'? Now I'm curious about your choice of words.

Quote:
Likewise, the need to generally tighten up and make more objective the diagnostic process for adults with suspected ADHD, given material evidence of over- diagnosis and the problem of individuals faking symptoms (which is easy to do)
in order to access stimulant drugs like Dexedrine, etc; for performance enhancement.
Given that only around 5% of the adult population is even diagnosed and less than that medicated I'm torn here. Yes, there are people who drug seek, yet I think you could be charged with scrupulosity .. but probably no more proportionally than the, 'come one come all' naivete of many others.




Quote:
It doesn't bother me because I think that ADHD is a very serious social issue and stirring up debate on legitimate ADHD issues is always a good thing.
For myself, I like resolution, and that's often missing in these important dialogues. I do think it's important to go hard on these issues but eventually there does need to be some movement from both sides for it to truly be productive. Now, that is my opinion and perhaps a stylistic one, but I do think it does have greater impact when you challenge hard and then find some way to acknowledge just how multifaceted and complex some of these issues are. I guess I just think it makes for a better thread. Your mileage may vary.
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Old 06-22-12, 03:19 AM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

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Originally Posted by ginniebean View Post
For myself, I like resolution, and that's often missing in these important dialogues. I do think it's important to go hard on these issues but eventually there does need to be some movement from both sides for it to truly be productive. Now, that is my opinion and perhaps a stylistic one, but I do think it does have greater impact when you challenge hard and then find some way to acknowledge just how multifaceted and complex some of these issues are. I guess I just think it makes for a better thread. Your mileage may vary.
Ginnie said what I was trying to say more tactfully, more insightfully, and more accurately than I think would be possible for me.

I only quoted one paragraph, but I think the entire post is accurate.
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Old 06-24-12, 10:47 AM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

Y'know, I really like that champagne corks analogy, It's a good one for emotional dysregulation.
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Old 06-24-12, 01:33 PM
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Re: ADHD and General Intelligence - the Biological Perspective

Have there been any twin studies on ADHD and IQ?

It would be interesting to see if the IQ discrepancy between an ADHD twin and NT twin was typically greater than the discrepancy between 2 NT twins.
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