Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Advisor's Name
First Advisor's Committee Title
Second Advisor's Name
Second Advisor's Committee Title
Third Advisor's Name
Joseph Raiker, Jr.
Third Advisor's Committee Title
Fourth Advisor's Name
Fourth Advisor's Committee Title
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, psychopathology, psychophysiology, executive functions, working memory, response inhibition, reaction time variability
Date of Defense
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is among the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in childhood, and yet, the causal mechanisms of the disorder remain unclear. Deficits in attention regulation, inhibition, and working memory are frequently proposed as core mechanisms of ADHD, but these deficits are highly heterogeneous at the individual level, which hampers advances in understanding the etiology of the disorder. Recent research has shown that parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) regulation is linked to cognitive function and emotion regulation; atypical PNS regulation is associated with problems in these domains as well as higher risk for psychopathology overall. This dissertation examined aspects of attention, response inhibition, and working memory, as well as PNS regulation and reactivity, in a sample of children both with and without ADHD; between-groups comparisons were conducted using ANCOVA, as well as examining associations with a continuous measure of ADHD symptom severity using multiple regression. Furthermore, the possible moderating effect of PNS reactivity on the association between each cognitive domain and ADHD was evaluated.
Children with ADHD exhibited significantly poorer performance on tests of attention, response inhibition, and attentional regulation. PNS regulation at rest was also significantly reduced among ADHD youth compared to typically developing peers. In addition, there was a consistent moderating effect of PNS reactivity on the continuous associations between each cognitive domain and inattention symptom severity. The possible relevance of these findings is discussed with respect to multiple pathway and additive models of ADHD development, as well as cognitive-energetic etiological models which hypothesize deficits in broad regulatory capacities which cascade into executive functioning difficulties. Future directions are also noted and include the need to examine similar interactions within a longitudinal design, and the need to describe the role of PNS regulation in the development of ADHD in greater detail.
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Ward, Anthony R., "Cognitive Factors and Parasympathetic Regulation as Interacting Mechanisms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder" (2019). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4057.
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