Objective: Previous event-related potential (ERP) research on inhibitory functioning in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) has often failed to use tasks which optimally assess inhibition. We report on an improved measure of inhibitory function, involving inhibition of a prepotent response, in children with AD/HD. Methods: Twelve males with AD/HD and 12 control males, aged 7–12 years, completed a cued Go/NoGo task where Go stimuli were presented on 70% of trials. ERP and behavioural measures were collected, together with reading, spelling and full-scale IQ scores. Results: The behavioural performance of children with AD/HD was not significantly different from normal controls, although children with AD/HD made faster responses and more errors. Group differences were apparent in the early processing components (P1, N1, P2) of responses to Warning, Go and NoGo stimuli. For the frontally maximal N2, a NoGo>Go effect was found, consistent with previous work linking this component with inhibitory processing. In control children this effect was particularly strong in the right frontal region, while children with AD/HD showed a much larger NoGo>Go effect, and an earlier N2 peak, than controls, with a focal shift to the left frontal region. Conclusions: Compared with normal controls, children with AD/HD demonstrate early stimulus processing atypicalities, suggesting problems with sensory registration and identification of stimuli. Further, N2 results suggest that children with AD/HD must trigger the inhibition process earlier and more strongly than controls to perform at a comparable behavioural level. Significance: The results support the theory that behavioural inhibition is deficient in AD/HD, as children with AD/HD show abnormalities in inhibitory ERP components relating to the effort involved in inhibiting a prepotent response.
Clinical Neurophysiology Vol. 115, Issue 6, p. 1320-1331