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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)


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)


Corresponding author

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


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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)


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