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Neuropsychologia. 2009 Jul;47(8-9):1873-82. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.02.030. Epub 2009 Mar 4.

Electrophysiological correlates of semantic processing during encoding of neutral and emotional pictures in patients with ADHD.

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Department of Neurology and Center for Advanced Imaging, University of Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany.


The current study investigated the relevance of semantic processing and stimulus salience for memory performance in young ADHD patients and healthy control participants. 18 male ADHD patients and 15 healthy control children and adolescents participated in an ERP study during a visual memory paradigm with two different encoding tasks requiring either perceptual or semantic processing of neutral and emotional pictures. ADHD patients and healthy controls both showed a more negative slow-wave in response to task cues signalling semantic as compared to perceptual stimulus processing. In contrast to ADHD patients, healthy control children showed a larger increase in memory performance for deeply processed neutral pictures which was accompanied by a more positive mid-latency ERP component (so-called P300) after stimulus onset. Our results demonstrate that ADHD patients succeeded in allocating neural resources in preparation of different task demands. However, this increase in preparatory activation to the semantic task cue did not suffice to support successful processing and encoding of neutral stimuli to the same extent as in healthy controls. These findings provide evidence that ADHD patients show deficits in translating pre-stimulus mobilization of neural resources to successful memory formation in the absence of salient stimulus material.

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