Sex differences in adolescent ADHD: findings from concurrent EEG and EDA

Clin Neurophysiol. 2005 Jun;116(6):1455-63. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2005.02.012. Epub 2005 Apr 7.


Objective: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) occurs more frequently in male children and adolescents than in females, with a ratio of approximately 3 to 1. We determined whether psychophysiological differences are associated with the expression of ADHD in males and females, using simultaneously recorded electroencephalography (EEG) and electrodermal activity (EDA).

Methods: Quantitative EEG and EDA measures were acquired simultaneously and continuously (2min) during an eyes closed resting condition for 70 ADHD adolescents (48 males, 22 females) and their age- and sex-matched controls.

Results: Males and females with ADHD were differentiated by both EEG theta activity and EDA. ADHD males showed increased theta (widespread), whereas ADHD females showed a localised frontal enhancement of theta with reduced rate of EDA decrement. These sex differences were unrelated to ADHD subtype.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that different psychophysiological processes may underlie ADHD in each sex. The profile of theta enhancement in ADHD males is consistent with a developmental deviation model of ADHD, whereas ADHD in females may be better understood within an arousal model, which emphasizes both central and autonomic function.

Significance: These findings highlight the potential for concurrent EDA measures to inform EEG studies of ADHD, particularly in regard to sex differences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted