Introduction: In this study, the neural correlates of error processing in adult patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are to be investigated for the first time. Recent studies in children with ADHD suggested, with some inconsistencies, deficits in error processing. Based on an analogue study with students, we hypothesized that ADHD patients show reduced amplitudes in the event-related potential (ERP) of the Pe (error positivity) but normal amplitudes of the ERN (error-related negativity) after incorrect responses.
Method: In this study we investigated 34 adult ADHD patients and 34 healthy controls with a modified version of the Eriksen flanker task while recording the neural activity with 26 scalp EEG electrodes. Patients discontinued all medication at least 3 days prior to investigation. Age was included as a control variable for the statistical analyses.
Results and conclusion: As hypothesized, we found reduced Pe amplitudes, but also reduced ERN values, in ADHD patients. Importantly, theses differences as well as the deficits in behavioural performance were mainly detectable in the younger subsample, but not in the elderly subsample. Our results indicate that adult ADHD patients are characterized by deficits in error processing, which vanish with age.