When distraction is not distracting: A behavioral and ERP study on distraction in ADHD

R. van Mourik, J. Oosterlaan, D.J. Heslenfeld, C.E. Konig, J.A. Sergeant

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Although an increased distractibility is one of the behavioral criteria of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there is little empirical evidence that children with ADHD are in fact more distractible than their normal peers. Methods: We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) to distracting novel sounds (novels) and standard sounds, (standards) while children performed a visual two-choice reaction time task. Twenty-five children with ADHD were compared with eighteen normal controls (aged 8-12 years). Results: Children with ADHD showed a larger early P3a (150-250 ms), both in response to the standard and in response to the novel. The late phase of the P3a had a larger amplitude in the ADHD group in the 250-300 ms window compared to the control group, which was only present in response to the novel. Interestingly, the novel reduced the errors of omission in the ADHD group to a greater extent than in the normal control group. Conclusions: Although children with ADHD show an increased orienting response to novels, this distracting information can enhance their performance temporarily, possibly by increasing their arousal to an optimal level, as indicated by the reduced omission rate. Significance: These data indicate that distraction is not always distracting in children with ADHD and that distraction can also have beneficial effects. © 2007 International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1855-1865
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number8
Early online date18 Jun 2007
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


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