BACKGROUND: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that starts in childhood and frequently persists in adults. Several theories postulate deficits in ADHD that have effects across many executive functions or in more narrowly defined aspects, such as response inhibition. Electrophysiological studies on children, however, indicate that ADHD is not associated with a core deficit of response inhibition, as abnormal inhibitory processing is typically preceded or accompanied by other processing deficits. It is not yet known if this pattern of abnormal processing is evident in adult ADHD.
METHODS: The objective of this paper was to investigate event-related potential indices of preparatory states and subsequent response inhibition processing in adults with ADHD. Two cued continuous performance tasks were presented to 21 adults meeting current criteria for adult ADHD and combined type ADHD in childhood, and 20 controls.
RESULTS: The ADHD group exhibited significantly weaker orienting attention to cues, cognitive preparation processes and inhibitory processing. In addition, we observed a strong correlation between the resources allocated to orienting to cues and the strength of the subsequent response strength control processes, suggesting that orienting deficits partly predict and determine response control deficits in ADHD.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings closely resemble those previously found in children with ADHD, which indicate that there is not a core response inhibition deficit in ADHD. These findings therefore suggest the possibility of developmental stability into adulthood of the underlying abnormal processes in ADHD.