Attentional Selection and Suppression in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Encong Wang, Li Sun, Meirong Sun, Jing Huang, Ye Tao, Xixi Zhao, Zhanliang Wu, Yulong Ding, Daniel P Newman, Mark A Bellgrove, Yufeng Wang, Yan Song

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Background Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder with prominent impairments in directing and sustaining attention. The aim of this study was to identify the neurophysiologic bases of attention deficits in ADHD, focusing on electroencephalography markers of attentional selection (posterior contralateral N2 [N2pc]) and suppression (distractor positivity [PD]). Methods The electroencephalography data were collected from 135 children 9-15 years old with and without ADHD while they searched for a shape target in either the absence (experiment 1) or the presence (experiment 2) of a salient but irrelevant color distractor. Results In experiment 1, the shape target elicited a smaller N2pc in children with ADHD (n = 38) compared with typically developing children (n = 36). The smaller N2pc amplitude predicted higher levels of inattentive symptoms in children with ADHD. Moreover, the target-elicited N2pc was followed by a positivity in typically developing children but not in children with ADHD. In experiment 2, the salient but irrelevant color distractor elicited a smaller PD component in children with ADHD (n = 32) compared with typically developing children (n = 29). The smaller PD predicted higher inattentive symptom severity as well as lower behavioral accuracy in children with ADHD. Conclusions The correlation between N2pc/PD amplitudes and ADHD symptom severity suggests that these signals of attentional selection and suppression may serve as potential candidates for neurophysiologic markers of ADHD. Our findings provide a neurophysiologic basis for the subjective reports of attention deficits in children with ADHD and highlight the importance of spatial attention impairments in ADHD
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-380
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • ADHD
  • Electroencephalography
  • N2pc
  • PD
  • Selection
  • Suppression

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