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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2003 Oct;46(5):1166-83.

Deaf adults without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder display reduced perceptual sensitivity and elevated impulsivity on the Test of Variables of Attention (T.O.V.A.).

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  • 1Department of Research, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623, USA.


The Test of Variables of Attention (T.O.V.A.; R. A. Leark, T. R. Dupuy, L. M. Greenberg, C. L. Corman, & C. L. Kindeschi, 1996) is a continuous performance test used widely to help diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both hearing and deaf people. The T.O.V.A. previously has been normed only on the hearing population. The T.O.V.A. performance of 38 prelingually and severely-to-profoundly deaf young adults and 34 hearing young adults who did not have ADHD was examined in this study. Deaf and hearing participants did not differ on the T.O.V.A. omission variables. However, deaf participants had significantly lower d' scores than hearing participants, indicating reduced perceptual sensitivity to the distinction between target and distractor stimuli. Consistent with the existing literature on attentional reorganization in the deaf population, this result was interpreted as indicating a deafness-related reduction in attention to centrally presented stimuli. Deaf participants also showed 2 to 3 times more commission errors than hearing participants and displayed a higher incidence of anticipatory errors. These results suggest a deafness-related increase in impulsivity at the time of response initiation. Beta score analysis confirmed that deaf participants adopted an overall less conservative (more impulsive) response criterion that contributed to their total elevated commission errors. However, a portion of the commission errors was secondary to their reduced d', not to increased behavioral impulsivity. Separate factor analyses of the standard T.O.V.A. variables revealed highly similar factor structures for deaf and hearing participants, indicating similar construct validity of the T.O.V.A. for both groups. The evidence for increased inattention and impulsivity in a non-ADHD deaf sample are interpreted in the context of an adaptive attentional reorganization due to deafness. Along with the factor analytic results, these considerations suggest that separate T.O.V.A. norms must be developed for the deaf population to avoid overdiagnosis of ADHD in deaf individuals.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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