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Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Jan 1;65(1):39-45. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.06.021. Epub 2008 Aug 23.

Task complexity enhances response inhibition deficits in childhood and adolescent attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a meta-regression analysis.

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Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.



The ability to inhibit motor responses, as assessed by the stop-signal reaction time (SSRT), is impaired in children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, the between-study variation in effect sizes is large. The aim of this study was to investigate whether this variability can be explained by between-study variation in Go task complexity.


Forty-one studies comparing children or adolescents diagnosed with ADHD to normal control subjects were incorporated in a random-effects meta-regression analysis. The independent variables were a global index of Go task complexity (i.e., mean reaction time in control subjects [RTc]) and a more specific index (i.e., spatial compatibility of the stimulus-response mapping). The dependent variable was the SSRT difference between ADHD and control subjects.


The SSRT difference increased significantly with increasing RTc. Moreover, the SSRT difference was significantly increased in studies that employed a noncompatible, that is, arbitrary, mapping compared with studies that incorporated a spatially compatible stimulus-response mapping.


These results indicate that inhibitory dysfunction in children and adolescents with ADHD varies with task complexity: inhibitory dysfunction in ADHD is most pronounced for spatially noncompatible responses. Explanations in terms of inhibition and working memory deficits and a tentative neurobiological explanation are briefly discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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