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Psychol Med. 2017 Aug;47(11):1947-1956. doi: 10.1017/S0033291717000332. Epub 2017 Mar 14.

Diminished modulation of preparatory sensorimotor mu rhythm predicts attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder severity.

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Karakter Child and Adolescent Psychiatry University Centre,Nijmegen,The Netherlands.
Donders Institute for Brain,Cognition and Behaviour,Radboud University,Nijmegen,The Netherlands.
Department of Human Genetics,Radboudumc,Nijmegen,The Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry,Radboudumc,Nijmegen,The Netherlands.
Centre for Human Brain Health,School of Psychology,University of Birmingham,Birmingham,UK.



Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by problems in regulating attention and in suppressing disruptive motor activity, i.e. hyperactivity and impulsivity. We recently found evidence that aberrant distribution of posterior α band oscillations (8-12 Hz) is associated with attentional problems in ADHD. The sensorimotor cortex also produces strong 8-12 Hz band oscillations, namely the μ rhythm, and is thought to have a similar inhibitory function. Here, we now investigate whether problems in distributing α band oscillations in ADHD generalize to the μ rhythm in the sensorimotor domain.


In a group of adult ADHD (n = 17) and healthy control subjects (n = 18; aged 21-40 years) oscillatory brain activity was recorded using magnetoencephalography during a visuo-spatial attention task. Subjects had to anticipate a target with unpredictable timing and respond by pressing a button.


Preparing a motor response, the ADHD group failed to increase hemispheric μ lateralization with relatively higher μ power in sensorimotor regions not engaged in the task, as the controls did (F 1,33 = 8.70, p = 0.006). Moreover, the ADHD group pre-response μ lateralization not only correlated positively with accuracy (r s = 0.64, p = 0.0052) and negatively with intra-individual reaction time variability (r s = -0.52, p = 0.033), but it also correlated negatively with the score on an ADHD rating scale (r s = -0.53, p = 0.028).


We suggest that ADHD is associated with an inability to sufficiently inhibit task-irrelevant sensorimotor areas by means of modulating μ oscillatory activity. This could explain disruptive motor activity in ADHD. These results provide further evidence that impaired modulation of α band oscillations is involved in the pathogenesis of ADHD.


Alpha activity; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; inhibition; magnetoencephalography; mu rhythm

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