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Neuropsychologia. 1999 Mar;37(3):345-56.

Covert orienting and focusing of attention in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The University of Melbourne, St Vincents' Hospital, Australia.


Performance on the covert visuo-spatial attentional functions of orienting and focusing by a group of ADHD children (n = 20) was compared to that of age and sex-matched control children. In Experiment 1, responses were given to cued targets at valid and invalid locations. In Experiment 2, responses were given to targets presented in small, medium-sized or large visual field locations. For both experiments, the hypotheses that reaction times of ADHD children would be greater than those of control children and that performance would be asymmetrical, were supported. For Experiment 1, ADHD children showed bilaterally greater 'benefits' from having directed attention to the cued location and greater 'costs' in having to relocate the attentional focus than controls. In Experiment 2, the hypothesis that the function of focusing attention by ADHD children may show breakdown in the usual pattern of an increase in reaction time with focus area was partly supported by the finding of similar reaction times to targets presented in medium-sized and large regions of the left visual hemifield. These results have been interpreted as reflecting a stronger anchorage of attention by ADHD children upon a cued location and an inability to shift covert attention easily to an alternative location. The breakdown of the focusing function suggests adoption of similar time response sets across focus area size by the more compromised right hemisphere.

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