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Interstimulus jitter facilitates response control in children with ADHD

  • MATTHEW RYAN (a1), REBECCA MARTIN (a2), MARTHA B. DENCKLA (a1) (a3) (a4) (a5), STEWART H. MOSTOFSKY (a3) (a5) (a6) and E. MARK MAHONE (a2) (a5)...


Interstimulus “jitter” involves randomization of intervals between successive stimulus events, and can facilitate performance on go/no-go tests among healthy adults, though its effect in clinical populations is unclear. Children with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) commonly exhibit deficient response control, leading to increased intra-subject variability (ISV), which has been linked to anomalous functioning within frontal circuits, as well as their interaction with posterior “default mode” regions. We examined effects of interstimulus jitter on response variability in 39 children, ages 9–14 years (25 ADHD, 14 controls). Participants completed 2 computerized go/no-go tests: one with fixed interstimulus interval (ISI) and one with jittered ISI. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed a significant group–by test interaction, such that introduction of jitter produced a significant decrease in ISV among children with ADHD, but not among controls. Whereas children with ADHD were significantly more variable than controls on the go/no-go test with fixed ISI, their performance with jittered ISI was equivalent to that of controls. Jittering stimulus presentation provides a nonpharmacologic mechanism for improving response control in ADHD. This bottom-up approach may be mediated by increases in vigilance through noradrenergic circuits that facilitate maintenance of frontal circuits critical to response control. (JINS, 2010, 16, 388–393.)


Corresponding author

*Correspondence and reprint requests to: E. Mark Mahone, Ph.D., Department of Neuropsychology, Kennedy Krieger Institute, 1750 East Fairmount Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21231. E-mail:


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