Error and feedback processing in children with ADHD and children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: an EEG event-related potential study

Clin Neurophysiol. 2008 Nov;119(11):2476-93. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2008.08.004. Epub 2008 Sep 27.


Objective: Performance monitoring was investigated in typically developing (TD) children, children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Methylphenidate (Mph)-treated and medication-free children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Methods: Subjects performed a feedback-based learning task. Event-related Potentials (ERPs) time locked to responses and feedback were derived from the EEG.

Results: Compared to the TD and ASD groups, the medication-free ADHD group showed a decreased response-locked Error Related Negativity (ERN) and error Positivity (Pe), particularly as learning progressed throughout the task. Compared to the medication-free ADHD group, the Methylphenidate-treated group showed a normalised Pe. All clinical groups showed or tended to show a decreased feedback-locked late positive potential to negative feedback.

Conclusions: The ERPs suggest that medication-free children with ADHD, but not with ASD, have a diminished capacity to monitor their error responses when they are learning by performance feedback. This capacity partially 'normalises' in Mph-treated children with ADHD. Both children with ADHD and children with ASD are suggested being compromised in affective feedback processing.

Significance: This study shows that measuring ERPs of error and feedback processing is a useful method for (1) dissociating ADHD from ASD and (2) elucidating medication effects in ADHD on component processes of performance monitoring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Contingent Negative Variation / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Feedback / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Numerical Analysis, Computer-Assisted
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Probability Learning
  • Reaction Time
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors