Date of Completion
Honors College Thesis
Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors
Dr. Alexandra S. Potter
Dr. Eugene Delay
ADHD, cognitive flexibility, academics, neuroscience, fMRI
Cognitive flexibility, or the ability to change behavior or cognitive action appropriately in response to context shifts, is crucial to college-level learning, as it is needed for solving problems that require a transfer of familiar knowledge to novel concepts. Cognitive flexibility is known to involve neural areas concentrated in the frontal lobes, such as the inferior and superior frontal gyri and the anterior cingulate cortex, but the activation of this network is typically weaker in the ADHD population. In academic settings, individuals with ADHD tend to perform below healthy peers, have lower GPAs, are more likely to be on academic probation, and have decreased motivation. While most of these downfalls are attributed to attentional deficits, no investigations have been done to assess any effects of cognitive flexibility on academic performance. Therefore, this study used the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST) in the fMRI to assess cognitive flexibility in college students with and without ADHD and compared task performance to academic performance to determine if there is any relationship. We found that the ADHD group presented more perseverative errors on the WCST, and this performance was negatively correlated to GPA, suggesting that cognitive flexibility deficits impair academic performance. We also observed decreased activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and inferior and superior frontal gyri in subjects with ADHD as compared to controls, suggesting a possible neural network involved in these behavioral deficits.
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Wixted, Ellen K.; Sue, Irene J.; Dube, Sarahjane L. M.S.; and Potter, Alexandra S. Ph.D., "Cognitive Flexibility and Academic Performance in College Students with ADHD: An fMRI Study" (2016). UVM Honors College Senior Theses. 126.