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Neuropsychologia. 2008;46(8):2234-42. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.02.011. Epub 2008 Feb 16.

Electrophysiological evidence of atypical motivation and reward processing in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, PO Box 3050 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, V8W 3P5 Canada.


Behavioral and neurophysiological evidence suggest that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by the impact of abnormal reward prediction error signals carried by the midbrain dopamine system on frontal brain areas that implement cognitive control. To investigate this issue, we recorded the event-related brain potential (ERP) from typical children and children with ADHD as they navigated a "virtual maze" to find monetary rewards, and physically gave them their accumulated rewards halfway through the task and at the end of the experiment. We found that the amplitude of a reward-related ERP component decreased somewhat for typical children after they received their first payment, but increased for children with ADHD following the payment. This result indicates that children with ADHD are unusually sensitive to the salience of reward and suggests that such sensitivity may be mediated in part by the midbrain dopamine system.

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