Stop and look! Evidence for a bias towards virtual navigation response strategies in children with ADHD symptoms

Behav Brain Res. 2016 Feb 1;298(Pt A):48-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.08.019. Epub 2015 Aug 24.


Studies in children show that the development of spatial competence emerges between seven and eight years of age. Multiple memory systems (hippocampus-dependent spatial and caudate nucleus-dependent response learning) are involved in parallel processing of information during navigation. As a hippocampus-dependent spatial strategy also relies on frontoparietal executive control and working memory networks that are impaired in ADHD, we predicted that children will be more likely to adopt a response strategy as they exhibit ADHD symptoms. We tested 285 healthy children on a virtual radial-arm maze paradigm in order to test this hypothesis. We found that children displaying at least one ADHD symptom were more likely to have a perfect performance on a probe trial, which suggests that they did not rely on environmental landmarks. Children with ADHD symptoms may primarily rely on caudate nucleus-dependent response learning strategies at the expense of hippocampus-dependent spatial strategies. Repetition and reward based learning strategies, which are hallmarks of response learning, may be most effective in children exhibiting ADHD symptoms.

Keywords: ADHD; Caudate nucleus; Children; Hippocampus; Navigational strategy; Spatial memory; Twins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Caudate Nucleus
  • Child
  • Female
  • Games, Experimental
  • Hippocampus
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maze Learning*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Putamen
  • Quebec
  • Spatial Memory*
  • Spatial Navigation*
  • User-Computer Interface