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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2012 Jun;53(6):706-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02501.x. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

Shared genetic influences on ADHD symptoms and very low-frequency EEG activity: a twin study.

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  • 1MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, De Crespigny Park, London, UK.



  Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common and highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder with a complex aetiology. The identification of candidate intermediate phenotypes that are both heritable and genetically linked to ADHD may facilitate the detection of susceptibility genes and elucidate aetiological pathways. Very low-frequency (VLF; <0.5 Hz) electroencephalographic (EEG) activity represents a promising indicator of risk for ADHD, but it currently remains unclear as to whether it is heritable or genetically linked to the disorder.


  Direct-current (DC)-EEG was recorded during a cognitive activation condition in 30 monozygotic and dizygotic adolescent twin pairs concordant or discordant for high ADHD symptom scores, and 37 monozygotic and dizygotic matched-control twin pairs with low ADHD symptom scores. Structural equation modelling was used to quantify the genetic and environmental contributions to the phenotypic covariance between ADHD and VLF activity.


  Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was significantly associated with reduced VLF power during cognitive activation, which suggests reduced synchronization of widespread neuronal activity. Very low-frequency power demonstrated modest heritability (0.31), and the genetic correlation (-0.80) indicated a substantial degree of overlap in genetic influences on ADHD and VLF activity.


  Altered VLF activity is a potential candidate intermediate phenotype of ADHD, which warrants further investigation of underlying neurobiological and genetic mechanisms.

© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry © 2011 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

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