Objective measurement of motor activity during cognitive performance in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2010 Oct;122(4):285-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2010.01549.x. Epub 2010 Feb 25.


Objective: This study investigates whether hyperactivity, i.e. an increased level of motor activity, can be observed in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Method: An infrared motion-tracking system was used to measure motor activity in 20 unmedicated adults with ADHD and 20 matched healthy controls (HC) during a 1-back working memory task.

Results: Motor activity was higher in ADHD. It increased with the duration of testing and co-varied with cognitive performance in ADHD only. Subjective and objective measurements of motor activity were related in HC, but not in ADHD.

Conclusion: Higher levels of motor activity in ADHD are objectively measurable not only in children, but in adults as well. It is linked to cognitive performance arguing against distinguishable diagnostic subtypes. The objective measurement of motor activity seems to extend the description of ADHD symptoms derived from rating scales and might thus help to bridge the gap between psychopathological symptom description and neurobiological alterations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / physiopathology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / psychology
  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Self Report
  • Weights and Measures / instrumentation