Cognitive switching processes in young people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be slow at switching between stimuli, or between sets of stimuli to control behaviour appropriate to changing situations. We examined clinical and experimental parameters that may influence the speed of such processes measured in the trail-making (TMT) and switch-tasks in cases with ADHD combined-type, their non-affected siblings and unrelated healthy controls. The latency for completion of the trail-making task controlling for psychomotor processing (TMT B–A) was longer for ADHD cases, and correlated with Conners’ ratings of symptom-severity across all subjects. The effect decreased with age. Switchtask responses to questions of “Which number?” and “How many?” between sets of 1/111 or 3/333 elicited differential increases in latency with condition that affected all groups. But there was evidence for increased symptom-related intra-individual variability among the ADHD cases, and across all subjects. Young siblings showed familiality for some measures of TMT and switch-task performance but these were modest. The potential influence of moderator variables on the efficiency of processing stimulus change rather than the speed of processing are discussed.


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