Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Time-on-Task in Children with ADHD: An ex-Gaussian Analysis

  • Vincenza Tarantino (a1), Simone Cutini (a1), Carla Mogentale (a2) and Patrizia Silvia Bisiacchi (a1)

Abstract

Although it is widely known that high intra-individual variability (IIV) is a key characteristic of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a detailed exploration of the IIV pattern during the time course of a cognitive task has never been carried out. In this study, 30 children with ADHD and 30 controls, were administered the Conners’ Continuous Performance Task (CPT-II). The across-block individual performance of the groups was analyzed using an ex-Gaussian approach, which enabled a clearer understanding of how individual response times (RTs) fluctuate during a task in comparison with conventional measures of central tendency. While the conventional measures showed a significant group effect on mean RTs but similar RT trends across blocks between the two groups, the ex-Gaussian results revealed no actual differences between the two groups in the normally distributed component of mean RTs (mu). In contrast to the control group, the children with ADHD showed a steep increase in the exponentially distributed component of RTs (tau) across blocks, thereby indicating that extremely long RTs progressively increased soon after the beginning of the task. Taken together, the results demonstrated that sustained attention deficit in ADHD can be detected by analyzing the IIV in the first few task blocks. (JINS, 2013, 19, 1–9)

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Vincenza Tarantino, Department of General Psychology, Via Venezia, 8, 35131 Padua, Italy. E-mail: vincenza.tarantino@unipd.it

References

Hide All
Achenbach, T.M. (1991). Manual for the child behavior checklist 4/18 and 1991 profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.
American Psychiatry Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th edition-text revision) Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Barkley, R.A. (1997). Behavioral inhibition, sustained attention, and executive functions: Constructing a unifying theory of ADHD. Psychological Bulletin, 12, 6594.
Bellgrove, M.A., Hester, R., Garavan, H. (2004). The functional neuroanatomical correlates of response variability: Evidence from a response inhibition task. Neuropsychologia, 42, 19101916.
Benjamini, Y., Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the false discovery rate: A practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series B (Methodological), 57, 298300.
Biancardi, A., Nicoletti, C. (2004). BDE, Batteria per la valutazione della Discalculia Evolutiva. [Battery for the assessment of Dyscalculia]. Torino, Italy: Omega Edizioni.
Borella, E., de Ribaupierre, A., Cornoldi, C., Chicherio, C. (2012). Beyond interference control impairment in ADHD: Evidence from increased intraindividual variability in the color-Stroop test. Child Neuropsychology, [Epub ahead of print]. doi:10.1080/09297049.2012.696603.
Burbeck, S.L., Luce, R.D. (1982). Evidence from auditory simple reaction times for both change and level detectors. Perception & Psychophysics, 32, 117133.
Bush, G. (2010). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and attention networks. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 278300.
Bush, G. (2011). Cingulate, frontal, and parietal cortical dysfunction in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 69, 11601167.
Buzy, W., Medoff, D.R., Schweitzer, J.B. (2009). Intra-individual variability among children with ADHD on a working memory task: An ex-Gaussian approach. Child Neuropsychology, 2, 119.
Castellanos, F.X., Sonuga-Barke, E.J., Milham, M.P., Tannock, R. (2006). Characterizing cognition in ADHD: Beyond executive dysfunction. Trends in Cognitive Science, 10, 117123.
Castellanos, F.X., Sonuga-Barke, E.J., Scheres, A., Di Martino, A., Hyde, C., Walters, J.R. (2005). Varieties of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder-related intra-individual variability. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 14161423.
Castellanos, F.X., Tannock, R. (2002). Neuroscience of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: The search for endophenotypes. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 3, 617628.
Conners, C.K., MHS, Staff. (Eds.) (2000). Conners’ Continuous Performance Test II: Computer program for Windows technical guide and software manual. North Tonawanda, NY: Multi-Health Systems Inc.
Cornoldi, C., Colpo, G. (1998). Prove di lettura MT per la scuola elementare-2. [MT reading tests for primary school]. Florence, Italy: Organizzazioni Speciali.
Cornoldi, C., Gardinale, M., Masi, A., Pettenò, L. (1996). Impulsività e autocontrollo. [Impulsivity and Self-control]. Trento, Italy: Centro Studi Erickson.
Di Martino, A., Ghaffari, M., Curchack, J., Reiss, P., Hyde, C., Vannucci, M., Castellanos, F.X. (2008). Decomposing intra-subject variability in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 64, 607614.
Douglas, V.I. (1999). Cognitive control processes in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In H.C. Quay & A.E. Hogan (Eds.), Handbook of disruptive behavior disorders (pp. 105138). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
Epstein, J.N., Brinkman, W.B., Froehlich, T., Langberg, J.M., Narad, M.E., Antonini, T.N., Altaye, M. (2011). Effects of stimulant medication, incentives, and event rate on reaction time variability in children with ADHD. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36, 10601072.
Epstein, J.N., Conners, C.K., Hervey, A.S., Tonev, S.T., Arnold, L.E., Abikoff, H.B., Wigal, T.; MTA Cooperative Study Group (2006). Assessing medication effects in the MTA study using neuropsychological outcomes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 446456.
Epstein, J.N., Erkanli, A., Conners, C.K., Klaric, J., Costello, J.E., Angold, A. (2003). Relations between continuous performance test performance measures and ADHD behaviors. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31, 543554.
Epstein, J.N., Hwang, M.E., Antonini, T., Langberg, J.M., Altaye, M., Arnold, L.E. (2010). Examining predictors of reaction times in children with ADHD and normal controls. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 16, 138147.
Epstein, J.N., Langberg, J.M., Rosen, P.J., Graham, A., Narad, M.E., Antonini, T.N., Altaye, M. (2011). Evidence for higher reaction time variability for children with ADHD on a range of cognitive tasks including reward and event rate manipulations. Neuropsychology, 25, 427441.
Fassbender, C., Zhang, H., Buzy, W.M., Cortes, C.R., Mizuiri, D., Beckett, L., Schweitzer, J.B. (2009). A lack of default network suppression is linked to increased distractibility in ADHD. Brain Research, 1273, 114128.
Frigerio, A., Cattaneo, C., Cataldo, M., Schiatti, A., Molteni, M., Battaglia, M. (2004). Behavioral and emotional problems among Italian children and adolescents aged 4 to 18 years as reported by parents and teachers. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 20, 124133.
Geurts, H.M., Grasman, R.P., Verte, S., Ooserlaan, J., Roeyers, H., van Kammen, S.M., Sergeant, J.A. (2008). Intra-individual variability in ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and Tourette's Syndrome. Neuropsychologia, 46, 30303041.
Heathcote, A., Popiel, S.J., Mewhort, D.J.K. (1991). Analysis of response time distributions: An example using the Stroop task. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 340347.
Helps, S.K., Broyd, S.J., Bitsakou, P., Sonuga-Barke, E.J. (2011). Identifying a distinctive familial frequency band in reaction time fluctuations in ADHD. Neuropsychology, 25, 711719.
Hervey, A., Epstein, J.N., Curry, J.F., Tonev, S., Arnold, L.E., Conners, C.K., Hechtman, L. (2006). Reaction time distribution analysis of neuropsychological performance in an ADHD sample. Child Neuropsychology, 12, 125140.
Hockley, W.E., Corballis, M.C. (1982). Test of serial scanning in item recognition. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 36, 189212.
Johnson, K.A., Kelly, S.P., Bellgrove, M.A., Barry, E., Cox, M., Gill, M., Robertson, I.H. (2007). Response variability in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Evidence for neuropsychological heterogeneity. Neuropsychologia, 45, 630638.
Kelly, A.M., Hester, R., Murphy, K., Javitt, D.C., Foxe, J.J., Garavan, H. (2004). Prefrontal-subcortical dissociations underlying inhibitory control revealed by event-related fMRI. European Journal of Neuroscience, 19, 31053112.
Klein, C., Wendling, K., Huettner, P., Ruder, H., Peper, M. (2006). Intra-subject variability in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 60, 10881097.
Kuntsi, J., Oosterlaan, J., Stevenson, J. (2001). Psychological mechanisms in hyperactivity. I. Response inhibition deficit, working memory impairment, delay aversion, or something else? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 199210.
Lacouture, Y., Cousineau, D. (2008). How to use MATLAB to fit the ex-Gaussian and other probability functions to a distribution of response times. Tutorials in Quantitative Methods for Psychology, 4, 3545.
Leth-Steensen, C., Elbaz, Z.K., Douglas, V.I. (2000). Mean response times, variability, and skew in the responding of ADHD children: A response time distributional approach. Acta Psychologica, 104, 167190.
Luce, R.D. (1986). Response times: Their role in inferring elementary mental organization. New York: Oxford University Press.
Manly, T., Owen, A.M., McAvinue, L., Datta, A., Lewis, G.H., Scott, S.K., Robertson, I.H. (2003). Enhancing the sensitivity of a sustained attention task to frontal damage: Convergent clinical and functional imaging evidence. Neurocase, 9, 340349.
Marzocchi, G.M., Re, A.M., Cornoldi, C. (2010). BIA: Batteria Italiana per l'ADHD. [Italian Battery for ADHD]. Trento, Italy: Centro Studi Erickson.
Nigg, J.T., Willcutt, E.G., Doyle, A.E., Sonuga-Barke, E.J. (2005). Causal heterogeneity in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Do we need neuropsychologically impaired subtypes? Biological Psychiatry, 57, 12241230.
Orsini, A., Picone, L. (2006). WISC-III contributo alla taratura italiana [WISC-III contribution to the Italian standardization]. Florence, Italy: Organizzazioni Speciali.
Ratcliff, R., Murdock, B.B. (1976). Retrieval processes in recognition memory. Psychological Review, 83, 190214.
Ridderinkhof, K.R. (2002). Activation and suppression in conflict tasks: Empirical clarification through distributional analyses. In W. Prinz & B. Hommel (Eds.), Common mechanisms in perception and action. Attention & performance, (Vol. XIX, pp. 494519). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sartori, G., Job, R., Tressoldi, P. (2009). Batteria per la valutazione della dislessia e della disortografia evolutiva. [Battery for the assessment of dyslexia and dysorthografy]. Florence, Italy: Organizzazioni Speciali.
Sergeant, J.A. (2005). Modeling attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A critical appraisal of the cognitive-energetic model. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 12481255.
Sergeant, J.A., Geurts, H., Huijbregts, S., Scheres, A., Oosterlaan, J. (2003). The top and the bottom of ADHD: A neuropsychological perspective. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 27, 583592.
Sonuga-Barke, E.J., Castellanos, F.X. (2007). Spontaneous attentional fluctuations in impaired states and pathological conditions: A neurobiological hypothesis. Neuroscience Biobehavioral Reviews, 31, 977986.
Spencer, S.V., Hawk, L.W. Jr., Richards, J.B., Shiels, K., Pelham, W., Waxmonsky, J. (2009). Stimulant treatment reduces lapses in attention among children with ADHD: The effects of methylphenidate on intraindividual response time distributions. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 805816.
Stuss, D.T., Murphy, K.J., Binns, M.A., Alexander, M.P. (2003). Staying on the job: The frontal lobes control individual performance variability. Brain, 126, 23638230.
Tannock, R., Schachar, R., Logan, G. (1995). Methylphenidate and cognitive flexibility: Dissociated dose effects in hyperactive children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 23, 235266.
Teicher, M.H., Lowen, S.B., Polcari, A., Foley, M., McGreenery, C.E. (2004). Novel strategy for the analysis of CPT data provides new insight into the effects of methylphenidate on attentional states in children with ADHD. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 14, 219232.
Tressoldi, P.E., Cornoldi, C. (1991). Batteria per la valutazione della scrittura e della competenza ortografica nella scuola dell'obbligo. [Battery for the assessment of writing skills of children from 7 to 13 years old]. Florence, Italy: Organizzazioni Speciali.
van der Meere, J., Shalev, R., Borger, N., Gross-Tsur, V. (1995). Sustained attention, activation and MPH in ADHD: A research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 36, 697703.
van der Meere, J., Wekking, E., Sergeant, J.A. (1991). Sustained attention and pervasive hyperactivity. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 32, 275284.
Vaurio, R.G., Simmonds, D.J., Mostofsky, S.H. (2009). Increased intra-individual reaction time variability in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder across response inhibition tasks with different cognitive demands. Neuropsychologia, 47, 23892396.
Wechsler, D. (1991). WISC-III: Wechsler intelligence scale for children. New York: The Psychological Corporation.
Weissman, D.H., Roberts, K.C., Visscher, K.M., Woldorff, M.G. (2006). The neural bases of momentary lapses in attention. Nature Neuroscience, 9, 971978.
Wilkins, A.J., Shallice, T., McCarthy, R. (1987). Frontal lesions and sustained attention. Neuropsychologia, 25, 359365.
Willcutt, E.G., Doyle, A.E., Nigg, J.T., Faraone, S.V., Pennington, B.F. (2005). Validity of the executive function theory of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A meta-analytic review. Biological Psychiatry, 57, 13361346.

Keywords

Time-on-Task in Children with ADHD: An ex-Gaussian Analysis

  • Vincenza Tarantino (a1), Simone Cutini (a1), Carla Mogentale (a2) and Patrizia Silvia Bisiacchi (a1)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed