Inhibitory functioning across ADHD subtypes: Recent findings, clinical implications, and future directions

Zachary W. Adams, Karen J. Derefinko, Richard Milich, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Although growing consensus supports the role of deficient behavioral inhibition as a central feature of the combined subtype of ADHD (ADHD/C; Barkley [1997] Psychol Bull 121:65-94; Nigg [2001] Psychol Bull 127:571-598), little research has focused on how this finding generalizes to the primarily inattentive subtype (ADHD/I). This question holds particular relevance in light of recent work suggesting that ADHD/I might be better characterized as a disorder separate from ADHD/C (Diamond [2005] Dev Psychopathol 17:807-825; Milich et al. [2001] Clin Psychol Sci Pract 8:463-488). This article describes major findings in the area of inhibitory performance in ADHD and highlights recent research suggesting important areas of divergence between the subtypes. In particular, preliminary findings point to potential differences between the subtypes with respect to how children process important contextual information from the environment, such as preparatory cues that precede responses and rewarding or punishing feedback following behavior. These suggestive findings are discussed in the context of treatment implications, which could involve differential intervention approaches for each subtype targeted to the specific deficit profiles that characterize each group of children. Future research avenues aimed toward building a sound theoretical model of ADHD/I and a better understanding of its relation to ADHD/C are also presented. Specifically, investigators are encouraged to continue studying the complex interplay between inhibitory and attentional processes, as this area seems particularly promising in its ability to improve our understanding of the potentially distinct pathologies underlying the ADHD subtypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-275
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Disabilities Research Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


  • ADHD
  • Contextual factors
  • Inhibition
  • Subtypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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