Some features of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may resemble those of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in older adults, contributing to diagnostic uncertainty in individuals seeking assessment in memory clinics. We systematically compared cognition and brain structure in ADHD and MCI to clarify the extent of overlap and identify potential features unique to each.
Older adults from a Cognitive Neurology clinic (40 ADHD, 29 MCI, 37 controls) underwent neuropsychological assessment. A subsample ( = 80) underwent structural neuroimaging.
Memory was impaired in both patient groups, but reflected a storage deficit in MCI (supported by relatively smaller hippocampi) and an encoding deficit in ADHD (supported by frontal lobe thinning). Both groups displayed normal executive functioning. Semantic retrieval was uniquely impaired in MCI.
Although ADHD has been proposed as a dementia risk factor or prodrome, we propose it is rather a pathophysiologically-unique phenotypic mimic acting via overlap in memory and executive performance.