Neural activity associated with executive functions in adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

This study used event-related potentials (ERPs) and flanker-task performance to compare executive functions in adolescents with ADHD, their siblings and independent healthy controls. The aim was to investigate the processing of distracting stimuli, control over inappropriate responses, and the detection of errors in the presence of incompatible and No-go stimuli (arrow-heads and a circle, respectively). Performance showed no major differences between the groups, although No-go errors were numerically increased for the patients. Adolescents with ADHD were not characterised by the absence of post-error response slowing. The ADHD group showed a generally smaller N2 and a missing amplification of the frontal P3 (P3a) in No-go vs. incompatible trials most likely reflecting impaired inhibitory processing. In response-locked potentials error-related negativity (Ne) and positivity (Pe) did not clearly differentiate between the groups. This study shows that ADHD children are more impaired in controlled than automatic response processing and inhibition. This was particularly evident in reduced frontal activity in general and especially after No-go stimuli. Deficient error processing may, however, not be a cardinal feature of adolescents with ADHD. Future work must orient towards determining if there is a subgroup for whom the inhibitory impairment is characteristic.


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