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J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2017 Mar-Apr;46(2):188-197. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2016.1157756. Epub 2016 Jun 6.

Stage 2 Sleep EEG Sigma Activity and Motor Learning in Childhood ADHD: A Pilot Study.

Author information

a Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior , Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
b Sleep for Science Research Laboratory , E.P. Bradley Hospital.
c National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies , New York State Department of Health.
d Centre for Sleep Research , University of South Australia.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with deficits in motor learning and sleep. In healthy adults, overnight improvements in motor skills are associated with sleep spindle activity in the sleep electroencephalogram (EEG). This association is poorly characterized in children, particularly in pediatric ADHD. Polysomnographic sleep was monitored in 7 children with ADHD and 14 typically developing controls. All children were trained on a validated motor sequence task (MST) in the evening with retesting the following morning. Analyses focused on MST precision (speed-accuracy trade-off). NREM Stage 2 sleep EEG power spectral analyses focused on spindle-frequency EEG activity in the sigma (12-15 Hz) band. The ADHD group demonstrated a selective decrease in power within the sigma band. Evening MST precision was lower in ADHD, yet no difference in performance was observed following sleep. Moreover, ADHD status moderated the association between slow sleep spindle activity (12-13.5 Hz) and overnight improvement; spindle-frequency EEG activity was positively associated with performance improvements in children with ADHD but not in controls. These data highlight the importance of sleep in supporting next-day behavior in ADHD while indicating that differences in sleep neurophysiology may contribute to deficits in this population.

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