Background: The attention and cognitive problems seen in individuals with a history of prenatal alcohol exposure often resemble those associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but few studies have directly assessed the unique influence of each on neurobehavioral outcomes.
Methods: We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) during a Go/No-go response inhibition task in young adults with prospectively obtained histories of prenatal alcohol exposure and childhood ADHD.
Results: Regardless of prenatal alcohol exposure, participants with childhood ADHD were less accurate at inhibiting responses. However, only the ADHD group without prenatal alcohol exposure showed a markedly diminished P3 difference between No-go and Go, which may reflect a more effortful strategy related to inhibitory control at the neural processing level.
Conclusion: This finding supports a growing body of evidence suggesting that the manifestation of idiopathic ADHD symptoms may stem from a neurophysiologic process that is different from the ADHD symptomatology associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. Individuals who have been prenatally exposed to alcohol and present with ADHD symptomatology may represent a unique endophenotype of the disorder, which may require different treatment approaches from those found to be effective with idiopathic ADHD.