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Psychophysiology. 1997 Jan;34(1):116-23.

Psychophysiological response of ADHD children to reward and extinction.

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Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.


In this study, we examined heart rate and skin conductance levels of 18 children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 18 normal children as they performed a repetitive motor task during reward and extinction conditions. Fowles (1980, Psychophysiology, 17, 87-104; 1988, Psychophysiology, 25, 373-391) suggested that psychophysiological responsivity reflects activity in two of Gray's (1982, The neuropsychology of anxiety, Oxford University Press; 1987, The psychology of fear and stress, Cambridge University Press) motivational systems; heart rate reactivity during reward reflects activity in the behavioral activation system, and skin conductance reactivity during extinction reflects activity in the behavioral inhibition system. As predicted, control children showed increased heart rate when reward was present and increased skin conductance when reward was removed. Compared with controls, ADHD children failed to show increased skin conductance levels during extinction, suggesting a weak behavioral inhibition system. ADHD children also displayed faster heart rate habituation to reward.

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