Report of a Work Group on Sluggish Cognitive Tempo: Key Research Directions and a Consensus Change in Terminology to Cognitive Disengagement Syndrome

Stephen P. Becker, Erik G. Willcutt, Daniel R. Leopold, Joseph W. Fredrick, Zoe R. Smith, Lisa A. Jacobson, G. Leonard Burns, Susan D. Mayes, Daniel A. Waschbusch, Tanya E. Froehlich, Keith McBurnett, Mateu Servera, Russell A. Barkley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this work was 2-fold: (1) to evaluate current knowledge and identify key directions in the study of sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT); and (2) to arrive at a consensus change in terminology for the construct that reflects the current science and may be more acceptable to researchers, clinicians, caregivers, and patients. Method: An international Work Group was convened that, in early 2021, compiled an online archive of all research studies on SCT and summarized the current state of knowledge, noted methodological issues, and highlighted future directions, and met virtually on 10 occasions in 2021 to discuss these topics and terminology. Results: Major progress has been made over the last decade in advancing our understanding of SCT across the following domains of inquiry: construct measurement and stability; genetic, environmental, pathophysiologic, and neuropsychological correlates; comorbid conditions; functional impairments; and psychosocial and medication interventions. Findings across these domains are summarized, and potential avenues to pursue in the next generation of SCT-related research are proposed. Following repeated discussions on terminology, the Work Group selected “cognitive disengagement syndrome” (CDS) to replace “SCT” as the name for this construct. This term was deemed to best satisfy considerations that should apply when selecting terms for a condition or syndrome, as it does not overlap with established terms for other constructs, is not offensive, and reflects the current state of the science. Conclusion: It is evident that CDS (SCT) has reached the threshold of recognition as a distinct syndrome. Much work remains to further clarify its nature (eg, transdiagnostic factor, separate disorder, diagnostic specifier), etiologies, demographic factors, relations to other psychopathologies, and linkages to specific domains of functional impairment. Investigators are needed with interests and expertise spanning basic, clinical, and translational research to advance our understanding and to improve the lives of individuals with this unique syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-645
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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