Psychological Medicine

Impaired and enhanced attentional function in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

J. KOSCHACK a1c1, H. J. KUNERT a1, G. DERICHS a1, G. WENIGER a1 and E. IRLE a1
a1 From the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Göttingen, Germany


Background. The symptom domain of inattention in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) suggests that there are neuropsychological fields of attention in which subjects with ADHD express deficits. However, studies using differentiated neuropsychological attentional tests in ADHD are lacking.

Method. A consecutive series of 35 subjects with ADHD aged 9–12 years were assessed on a computer-driven neuropsychological test battery for attentional functions. Their performance was classified according to the data of a normative sample of 187 healthy subjects aged 9–12 years, and compared with the performance of 35 matched healthy control subjects.

Results. According to normative data, most ADHD subjects performed on all attentional measures within the normal range. Comparisons with the control group revealed that ADHD subjects reacted faster on all attentional tests, yielding statistical significance for the Go/No go test and the Divided Attention test. They also performed with significantly fewer errors on the Divided Attention test. On the Go/No go test, Visual Scanning test and Attentional Shift test ADHD subjects committed significantly more errors than control subjects.

Conclusions. Our results suggest a differential pattern rather than a deficit pattern of attentional functions in ADHD. It is suggested that the more rapid response style of ADHD subjects leads to a more erroneous performance in self-paced attentional tasks and to a better performance in externally paced attentional tasks. However, neuropsychological tests of attention do not contribute to the clinical diagnosis of ADHD.

c1 Dr J. Koschack, Department of Psychiatry, University of Göttingen, Von-Siebold-Str. 5, D-37075 Göttingen, Germany.