Post-error adjustments and ADHD symptoms in adults: The effect of laterality and state regulation

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Evidence is accumulating that individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) do not adjust their responses after committing errors. Post-error response adjustments are taken to reflect, among others, error monitoring that is essential for learning, flexible behavioural adaptation, and achieving future goals. Many behavioural studies have suggested that atypical lateral brain functions and difficulties in allocating effort to protect performance against stressors (i.e., state regulation) are key factors in ADHD. Whether these factors contribute to the absence of post-error response adjustments in ADHD is unknown. The aim of the present study is to investigate the contribution of the left and right hemispheres and the deficiency in effort allocation to deviant post-error processing in adults with high ADHD symptoms. From a pool of 87 university students, two groups were formed: a group with higher (n = 30) and a group with lower (n = 26) scores on the ADHD index subscale of the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scales. The groups performed a lateralized lexical decision task with a fast and slower stimulus presentation rate. Post-error slowing and post-error response accuracy to stimuli presented in the left and right visual field were measured in each stimulus presentation rate. Results indicated that subjects with the lower ADHD scores slowed down and improved their response accuracy after errors, especially when stimuli were presented in the right visual field at the slower rate. In contrast, subjects with the higher ADHD scores showed no post-error adjustments. Results suggest that during lexical decision performance, impaired error processing in adults with ADHD is associated with affected ability of the left hemisphere to compensate for errors, especially when extra effort allocation is needed to meet task demands.

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