Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Alexandra Potter


attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, reading comprehension, narrative comprehension, social cognition, theory of mind, ToM, college students, functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Symptoms of this disorder have been shown to adversely impact academic and social functioning of those with ADHD. College students with ADHD, compared to their non-ADHD peers, are at increased risk for academic and social difficulties. Given the reading-intensive and socially-driven environment of the college campus, empirical literature examining the reading comprehension and social cognition of college students are wanting. The current investigation utilized the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (NDRT) and Faux Pas Recognition test (FPRT) to assess reading comprehension and social cognition, respectively, in college students with (n = 3) and without ADHD (n = 9). The Short Story Task (SST) was administered during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine neural correlates of narrative comprehension and theory of mind (ToM) while reading short fictional stories of varying prose complexity. The ADHD and control groups did not differ in IQ, GPA, or scores of NDRT, FPRT, or SST, suggesting that they had comparable academic performance, narrative comprehension, and social cognition. The fMRI analysis of SST showed that the ADHD group demonstrated increased activation in the left anterior cingulate (ACC) and parahippocampal gyrus (PHG) while reading the complex story compared to the simple story. This differential activation was not observed in the CTRL group, suggesting that the ADHD group required more neural resources to process the emotional components of the complex story to achieve the comparable performance on the SST. The ADHD group additionally exhibited lower activation in the narrative comprehension and ToM networks (medial prefrontal cortex, Broca’s area, angular gyri). Collectively, these results indicate that while ADHD and CTRL groups did not differ behaviorally, they exhibit differential neural activation patterns in tasks related to narrative comprehension and social cognition. Further investigations may inform the development of educational and psychosocial interventions to improve academic and social functioning in young adults with ADHD.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.