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Behav Genet. 2008 Mar;38(2):121-32. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Speed, variability, and timing of motor output in ADHD: which measures are useful for endophenotypic research?

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Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, Amsterdam 1081 BT, The Netherlands.


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) shares a genetic basis with motor coordination problems and probably motor timing problems. In line with this, comparable problems in motor timing should be observed in first degree relatives and might, therefore, form a suitable endophenotypic candidate. This hypothesis was investigated in 238 ADHD-families (545 children) and 147 control-families (271 children). A motor timing task was administered, in which children had to produce a 1,000 ms interval. In addition to this task, two basic motor tasks were administered to examine speed and variability of motor output, when no timing component was required. Results indicated that variability in motor timing is a useful endophenotypic candidate: It was clearly associated with ADHD, it was also present in non-affected siblings, and it correlated within families. Accuracy (under- versus over-production) in motor timing appeared less useful: Even though accuracy was associated with ADHD (probands and affected siblings had a tendency to under-produce the 1,000 ms interval compared to controls), non-affected siblings did not differ from controls and sibling correlations were only marginally significant. Slow and variable motor output without timing component also appears present in ADHD, but not in non-affected siblings, suggesting these deficits not to be related to a familial vulnerability for ADHD. Deficits in motor timing could not be explained by deficits already present in basic motor output without a timing component. This suggests abnormalities in motor timing were predominantly related to deficient motor timing processes and not to general deficient motor functioning. The finding that deficits in motor timing run in ADHD-families suggests this to be a fruitful domain for further exploration in relation to the genetic underpinnings of ADHD.

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