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Neuropsychology. 2011 Nov;25(6):711-9. doi: 10.1037/a0024479.

Identifying a distinctive familial frequency band in reaction time fluctuations in ADHD.

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  • 1Institute for Disorders of Impulse & Attention, Developmental Brain-Behaviour Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, United Kingdom.



Patients with ADHD are typically more variable in their reaction times (RT) than control children. Signal processing analyses have shown that time series RT data of children with ADHD have a distinctive low frequency periodic structure suggestive of a pattern of occasional spontaneous performance lapses. Here we use a fine-grained analysis of spectral power across a broader frequency range to differentiate the periodic qualities of ADHD time series RT data from (a) 1/frequency noise, and (b) control performance. We also assess the familiality of these frequencies by using a proband-sibling design.


Seventy-one children with ADHD, one of their siblings, and 50 control participants completed a simple RT task. Power across the RT frequency spectrum was calculated. The frequencies significantly differentiating the two groups were identified. Familiality was assessed in two ways: first, by comparing probands with their unaffected siblings and controls, and, second, by investigating the siblings of neuropsychologically impaired and unimpaired children with ADHD.


Analyses converged to highlight the potential importance of the .20-.26 Hz band in differentiating the periodic structure of ADHD RT time series data from both 1/frequency noise and control performance. This frequency band also showed the strongest evidence of familiality.


RT performance of children with ADHD had a distinctive periodic structure. The band identified as most differentiating and familial was at a higher frequency than in most previous reports. This highlights the importance of employing tasks with faster interstimulus intervals that will allow a larger portion of the frequency spectrum to be examined.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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