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Auditory conflict processing in ADHD


  • Conflict of interest statement: Joseph A. Sergeant: Advisory Board: Lilly, Shire; Research grant(s): Lilly; Speaker’s fee: Shire, Lilly, Janssen-Cillag.


Background:  Impaired cognitive control has been implicated as an important developmental pathway to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Cognitive control is crucial to suppress interference resulting from conflicting information and can be measured by Stroop-like tasks. This study was conducted to gain insight into conflict processing in children with ADHD.

Methods:  Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded in an auditory Stroop task. Twenty-four children with ADHD were compared with 24 control children (aged 8–12 years).

Results:  No deficit in interference control was found on the auditory Stroop task in children with ADHD. Children with ADHD responded more slowly, less accurately and more variably compared to controls. No differences between the groups occurred in the early conflict-related ERPs. However, the difference between the congruent and the incongruent condition in the 450–550 ms time window was absent in the ADHD group compared to controls. In addition, the conflict sustained potential was found frontally in the ADHD group but parietally in the control group.

Conclusions:  These ERP findings suggest that children with ADHD evaluate conflict to a lesser extent and differ in the way their brains select appropriate responses during conflict compared with controls.