Oculomotor inhibition in children with and without attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

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The aim of the present study was to distinguish between a general deficit in oculomotor control and a deficit restricted to inhibitory functions in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In addition, we were interested in differentiating between a general inhibition deficit and deficient subfunctions of inhibition. We used a prosaccade task to measure general oculomotor abilities in 22 children with ADHD and in age- and gender-matched healthy controls. A fixation, an antisaccade and a countermanding saccade task were used to measure specific aspects of oculomotor inhibition. Two major results were obtained: First, our prosaccade task suggests similar saccadic response preparation and saccadic accuracy in the ADHD compared to the control children. Secondly, the fixation and the countermanding saccade task indicate deficits on measures of oculomotor inhibition in the ADHD group. While patients were specifically impaired in stopping an already initiated response or in suppressing exploratory saccades in a novel situation, inhibition of a prepotent response was not deficient. Our data thus indicate an underlying impairment in cognitive inhibition in ADHD that has been associated with prefrontal lobe functions. More specifically, as the anterior cingulate gyrus has been associated with the countermanding saccade task and group differences were most pronounced in this paradigm our data are in line with imaging data stressing the importance of this cortical structure in the pathophysiology of ADHD.

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