Assessing Attentional Systems in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficiency and interactions of attentional systems in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by considering the effects of reinforcement and auditory warning on each component of attention. Thirty-six drug-naïve children (18 children with ADHD/18 typically developing children) performed two revised versions of the Attentional Network Test, which assess the efficiency of alerting, orienting, and executive systems. In feedback trials, children received feedback about their accuracy, whereas in the no-feedback trials, feedback was not given. In both conditions, children with ADHD performed more slowly than did typically developing children. They also showed impairments in the ability to disengage attention and in executive functioning, which improved when alertness was increased by administering the auditory warning. The performance of the attentional networks appeared to be modulated by the absence or the presence of reinforcement. We suggest that the observed executive system deficit in children with ADHD could depend on their low level of arousal rather than being an independent disorder.

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