Low- and high-level controlled processing in executive motor control tasks in 5-6-year-old children at risk of ADHD

A.C. Kalff, L.M. de Sonneville, P.P.M. Hurks, J.G.M. Hendriksen, M. Kroes, F.J.M. Feron, J.G.P.L.E. Steyaert, T.M. van Zeben, J.S.H. Vles, J. Jolles

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Low- and high-level controlled processing in executive motor control tasks in 5-6-year-old children at risk of ADHD.

Kalff AC, de Sonneville LM, Hurks PP, Hendriksen JG, Kroes M, Feron FJ, Steyaert J, van Zeben TM, Vles JS, Jolles J.

Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands. tjeenk@tip.nl

BACKGROUND: The scant research on the characteristics of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in kindergarten years curtails progress on early assessment of ADHD. METHOD: By screening a general population sample of 1317 five- to six-year-old children, four groups of children were selected. The performance of 30 children later diagnosed with ADHD was compared with 74 children later diagnosed with 'borderline ADHD' (children exhibiting all ADHD symptoms but without disruptions on two situations), 113 children later diagnosed with other psychopathology, and 126 healthy controls on computerised motor control tasks involving low- and high-level controlled processing. In addition, motor control was compared with movement speed. RESULTS: The children at risk of ADHD were in general less accurate and more variable in their movements than the children with other psychopathology and healthy controls. Under conditions of high-level controlled processing, the children at risk of ADHD were disproportionately more inaccurate and had a more unstable performance with their preferred hand than the other children. In addition, linear effects were found, with the children at risk of ADHD having the worst performance, followed by the children with 'borderline ADHD', and then both groups of control children. No significant group differences were found in movement speed. CONCLUSIONS: The main findings are interpreted as evidence for a specific deficit in high-level controlled processing in young children at risk of ADHD, now found in a motor task, rather than a response task. Furthermore, the results support the notion that ADHD represents a dimensional trait. In addition, problems in movement control (the need to allocate attentional capacity) rather than problems in movement speed distinguish children at risk of ADHD from other children. The findings are interpreted as evidence that higher-order executive processes, such as self-control and self-re
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1057
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003

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