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Behav Brain Res. 1998 Jul;94(1):25-32.

Inhibitory dysfunction in hyperactive boys.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital, London, UK.


Recent evidence suggests that the main deficit in childhood hyperactivity is in frontal lobe-mediated self-regulative functions such as inhibitory control. Hyperactives have consistently been shown to perform poorly on the stop task, which is a laboratory measurement of inhibitory control. This study was aimed at extending knowledge about inhibitory processes involved in the hyperactive's performance on this task. For this purpose, the performance of 11 pervasive hyperactives was compared to the performance of normal children on two stop tasks which differed from each other in the contingency of timing of the stop signal. In Stop1 stop signals were internally related, i.e. presented at time intervals after onset of the response stimulus, whereas in Stop2 stop signals were externally related, i.e. presented at time intervals related to the subject's own go-process. Both tasks were modifications of the classical stop task in modality of the stop signal visual instead of auditory and in event rate, which was half-shortened. The aim of this study was: (a) to replicate the findings of deficient inhibitory functions in hyperactive children in the stop task in spite of modifications in modality and event rate; and (b) to elucidate (dis)similarities of stopping processes or of group differences in these stopping processes triggered by stop delays related either to external or to internal processes. Hyperactive children were less efficient than controls in inhibiting their motor response in both versions of the stop task. independent of whether the stop signals were externally or internally related. Furthermore, the go-process of the hyperactives was more variable and erratic in both tasks. Thus, the results strengthen the effectiveness of stop tasks in distinguishing hyperactive from normal children.

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