Evidence that response inhibition is a primary deficit in ADHD

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2007 May;29(4):345-56. doi: 10.1080/13803390600678046.


The present study examined response inhibition in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; n = 58) and controls (n = 84) using three go/no-go tests -- one with high working memory demand (cognitive), one with low working memory demand (simple), and one with rewards and response costs (motivation linked) in which emphasis was on reward for responding to "go" stimuli. Results of a repeated measure analysis of variance showed a significant effect of diagnosis for errors of commission for the simple, cognitive, and motivation-linked go/no-go tests, such that children with ADHD made significantly more errors than controls. Furthermore, a significant effect of test was noted across groups, such that both children in the ADHD and control groups performed worse on the cognitive and motivation-linked tests than they did on the simple test. The diagnosis by test interaction was not significant, suggesting that ADHD participants showed a similar degree of impairment to that of controls, regardless of the degree of working memory load or feedback provided in the test. In children with ADHD, response inhibition appears to be a primary deficit that is observed even when executive function demands of tasks are minimal. Although increasing working memory demand appears to impede response inhibition, this effect is similar in ADHD and typically developing children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications*
  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reward
  • Sex Factors