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Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) could be a side-effect-free alternative to psychostimulants in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although there is limited evidence for clinical and cognitive effects, most studies were small, single-session and stimulated left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). No sham-controlled study has stimulated the right inferior frontal cortex (rIFC), which is the most consistently under-functioning region in ADHD, with multiple anodal-tDCS sessions combined with cognitive training (CT) to enhance effects. Thus, we investigated the clinical and cognitive effects of multi-session anodal-tDCS over rIFC combined with CT in double-blind, randomised, sham-controlled trial (RCT, ISRCTN48265228).
Fifty boys with ADHD (10–18 years) received 15 weekday sessions of anodal- or sham-tDCS over rIFC combined with CT (20 min, 1 mA). ANCOVA, adjusting for baseline measures, age and medication status, tested group differences in clinical and ADHD-relevant executive functions at posttreatment and after 6 months.
ADHD-Rating Scale, Conners ADHD Index and adverse effects were significantly lower at post-treatment after sham relative to anodal tDCS. No other effects were significant.
This rigorous and largest RCT of tDCS in adolescent boys with ADHD found no evidence of improved ADHD symptoms or cognitive performance following multi-session anodal tDCS over rIFC combined with CT. These findings extend limited meta-analytic evidence of cognitive and clinical effects in ADHD after 1–5 tDCS sessions over mainly left dlPFC. Given that tDCS is commercially and clinically available, the findings are important as they suggest that rIFC stimulation may not be indicated as a neurotherapy for cognitive or clinical remediation for ADHD.
A recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified 12 independent loci significantly associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Polygenic risk scores (PRS), derived from the GWAS, can be used to assess genetic overlap between ADHD and other traits. Using ADHD samples from several international sites, we derived PRS for ADHD from the recent GWAS to test whether genetic variants that contribute to ADHD also influence two cognitive functions that show strong association with ADHD: attention regulation and response inhibition, captured by reaction time variability (RTV) and commission errors (CE).
The discovery GWAS included 19 099 ADHD cases and 34 194 control participants. The combined target sample included 845 people with ADHD (age: 8–40 years). RTV and CE were available from reaction time and response inhibition tasks. ADHD PRS were calculated from the GWAS using a leave-one-study-out approach. Regression analyses were run to investigate whether ADHD PRS were associated with CE and RTV. Results across sites were combined via random effect meta-analyses.
When combining the studies in meta-analyses, results were significant for RTV (R2 = 0.011, β = 0.088, p = 0.02) but not for CE (R2 = 0.011, β = 0.013, p = 0.732). No significant association was found between ADHD PRS and RTV or CE in any sample individually (p > 0.10).
We detected a significant association between PRS for ADHD and RTV (but not CE) in individuals with ADHD, suggesting that common genetic risk variants for ADHD influence attention regulation.
UK clinical guidelines recommend treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults by suitably qualified clinical teams. However, young people with ADHD attempting the transition from children's to adults’ services experience considerable difficulties in accessing care.
To map the mental health services in the UK for adults who have ADHD and compare the reports of key stakeholders (people with ADHD and their carers, health workers, service commissioners).
A survey about the existence and extent of service provision for adults with ADHD was distributed online and via national organisations (e.g. Royal College of Psychiatrists, the ADHD Foundation). Freedom of information requests were sent to commissioners. Descriptive analysis was used to compare reports from the different stakeholders.
A total of 294 unique services were identified by 2686 respondents. Of these, 44 (15%) were dedicated adult ADHD services and 99 (34%) were generic adult mental health services. Only 12 dedicated services (27%) provided the full range of treatments recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Only half of the dedicated services (55%) and a minority of other services (7%) were reported by all stakeholder groups (P < 0.001, Fisher's exact test).
There is geographical variation in the provision of NHS services for adults with ADHD across the UK, as well as limited availability of treatments in the available services. Differences between stakeholder reports raise questions about equitable access. With increasing numbers of young people with ADHD graduating from children's services, developing evidence-based accessible models of care for adults with ADHD remains an urgent policy and commissioning priority.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often persists into adolescence and adulthood, but the processes underlying persistence and remission remain poorly understood. We previously found that reaction time variability and event-related potentials of preparation-vigilance processes were impaired in ADHD persisters and represented markers of remission, as ADHD remitters were indistinguishable from controls but differed from persisters. Here, we aimed to further clarify the nature of the cognitive-neurophysiological impairments in ADHD and of markers of remission by examining the finer-grained ex-Gaussian reaction-time distribution and electroencephalographic (EEG) brain-oscillatory measures in ADHD persisters, remitters and controls.
A total of 110 adolescents and young adults with childhood ADHD (87 persisters, 23 remitters) and 169 age-matched controls were compared on ex-Gaussian (mu, sigma, tau) indices and time-frequency EEG measures of power and phase consistency from a reaction-time task with slow-unrewarded baseline and fast-incentive conditions (‘Fast task’).
Compared to controls, ADHD persisters showed significantly greater mu, sigma, tau, and lower theta power and phase consistency across conditions. Relative to ADHD persisters, remitters showed significantly lower tau and theta power and phase consistency across conditions, as well as lower mu in the fast-incentive condition, with no difference in the baseline condition. Remitters did not significantly differ from controls on any measure.
We found widespread impairments in ADHD persisters in reaction-time distribution and brain-oscillatory measures. Event-related theta power, theta phase consistency and tau across conditions, as well as mu in the more engaging fast-incentive condition, emerged as novel markers of ADHD remission, potentially representing compensatory mechanisms in individuals with remitted ADHD.
We investigated whether adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show pseudoneglect—preferential allocation of attention to the left visual field (LVF) and a resulting slowing of mean reaction times (MRTs) in the right visual field (RVF), characteristic of neurotypical (NT) individuals —and whether lateralization of attention is modulated by presentation speed and incentives.
Fast Task, a four-choice reaction-time task where stimuli were presented in LVF or RVF, was used to investigate differences in MRT and reaction time variability (RTV) in adults with ADHD (n = 43) and NT adults (n = 46) between a slow/no-incentive and fast/incentive condition. In the lateralization analyses, pseudoneglect was assessed based on MRT, which was calculated separately for the LVF and RVF for each condition and each study participant.
Adults with ADHD had overall slower MRT and increased RTV relative to NT. MRT and RTV improved under the fast/incentive condition. Both groups showed RVF-slowing with no between-group or between-conditions differences in RVF-slowing.
Adults with ADHD exhibited pseudoneglect, a NT pattern of lateralization of attention, which was not attenuated by presentation speed and incentives.
Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) frequently suffer from sleep problems and report high levels of daytime sleepiness compared to neurotypical controls, which has detrimental effect on quality of life.
We evaluated daytime sleepiness in adults with ADHD compared to neurotypical controls using an observer-rated sleepiness protocol during the Sustained Attention Response Task as well as electroencephalogram (EEG) slowing, a quantitative electroencephalographic measure collected during a short period of wakeful rest.
We found that adults with ADHD were significantly sleepier than neurotypical controls during the cognitive task and that this on-task sleepiness contributed to cognitive performance deficits usually attributed to symptoms of ADHD. EEG slowing predicted severity of ADHD symptoms and diagnostic status, and was also related to daytime sleepiness. Frontal EEG slowing as well as increased frontal delta were especially prominent in adults with ADHD. We have validated and adapted an objective observer-rated measure for assessing on-task sleepiness that will contribute to future sleep research in psychology and psychiatry.
These findings indicate that the cognitive performance deficits routinely attributed to ADHD and often conceptualized as cognitive endophenotypes of ADHD are largely due to on-task sleepiness and not exclusively due to ADHD symptom severity. Daytime sleepiness plays a major role in cognitive functioning of adults with ADHD.
Mind wandering, emotional lability and sleep quality are currently mostly independently investigated but are all interlinked and play a major role is adult attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Emotional lability is a core feature of the disorder, excessive mind wandering has recently been linked to symptoms and impairments of ADHD and poor sleep quality is experienced by a clear majority of adults with ADHD. All three phenomena lead to functional impairment in ADHD, however their relationship to each other and to ADHD symptom severity is not well understood. Here we used serial multiple mediation models to examine the influence of mind wandering, sleep quality and emotional lability on ADHD symptom severity. 81 adults diagnosed with ADHD participated in this study. We found that mind wandering and emotional lability predicted ADHD symptom severity and that mind wandering, emotional lability and sleep quality were all linked and significantly contributed to the symptomatology of adult ADHD. Mind wandering was found to lead to emotional lability which in turn lead to ADHD symptom severity; and poor sleep quality was found to exacerbate mind wandering leading to ADHD symptoms. Future research should employ objective on-task measures of mind wandering, sleepiness and emotional lability to investigate the neural basis of these impairing deficits in ADHD.
Preterm birth is associated with an increased risk for cognitive-neurophysiological impairments and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Whether the associations are due to the preterm birth insult per se, or due to other risk factors that characterise families with preterm-born children, is largely unknown.
We employed a within-sibling comparison design, using cognitive-performance and event-related potential (ERP) measures from 104 preterm-born adolescents and 104 of their term-born siblings. Analyses focused on ADHD symptoms and cognitive and ERP measures from a cued continuous performance test, an arrow flanker task and a reaction time task.
Within-sibling analyses showed that preterm birth was significantly associated with increased ADHD symptoms (β = 0.32, p = 0.01, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.58) and specific cognitive-ERP impairments, such as IQ (β = −0.20, p = 0.02, 95% CI −0.40 to −0.01), preparation-vigilance measures and measures of error processing (ranging from β = 0.71, −0.35). There was a negligible within-sibling association between preterm birth with executive control measures of inhibition (NoGo-P3, β = −0.07, p = 0.45, 95% CI −0.33 to 0.15) or verbal working memory (digit span backward, β = −0.05, p = 0.63, 95% CI −0.30 to 0.18).
Our results suggest that the relationship between preterm birth with ADHD symptoms and specific cognitive-neurophysiological impairments (IQ, preparation-vigilance and error processing) is independent of family-level risk and consistent with a causal inference. In contrast, our results suggest that previously observed associations between preterm birth with executive control processes of inhibition and working memory are instead linked to background characteristics of families with a preterm-born child rather than preterm birth insult per se. These findings suggest that interventions need to target both preterm-birth specific and family-level risk factors.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental condition that profoundly affects quality of life. Although mounting evidence now suggests uncontrolled mind-wandering as a core aspect of the attentional problems associated with ADHD, the neural mechanisms underpinning this deficit remains unclear. To that extent, competing views argue for (i) excessive generation of task-unrelated mental content, or (ii) deficiency in the control of task-relevant cognition.
In a cross-sectional investigation of a large neurotypical cohort (n = 184), we examined alterations in the intrinsic brain functional connectivity architecture of the default mode (DMN) and frontoparietal (FPN) networks during resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging in relation to ADHD symptomatology, which could potentially underlie changes in ongoing thought within variable environmental contexts.
The results illustrated that ADHD symptoms were linked to lower levels of detail in ongoing thought while the participants made more difficult, memory based decisions. Moreover, greater ADHD scores were associated with lower levels of connectivity between the DMN and right sensorimotor cortex, and between the FPN and right ventral visual cortex. Finally, a combination of high levels of ADHD symptomology with reduced FPN connectivity to the visual cortex was associated with reduced levels of detail in thought.
The results of our study suggest that the frequent mind-wandering observed in ADHD may be an indirect consequence of the deficient control of ongoing cognition in response to increasing environmental demands, and that this may partly arise from dysfunctions in the intrinsic organisation of the FPN at rest.
Traits of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are strongly associated in children and adolescents, largely due to genetic factors. Less is known about the phenotypic and aetiological overlap between ADHD and ASD traits in adults.
We studied 6866 individuals aged 20–28 years from the Swedish Study of Young Adult Twins. Inattention (IA) and hyperactivity/impulsivity (HI) were assessed using the WHO Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale-V1.1. Repetitive and restricted behaviours (RRB) and social interaction and communication (SIC) were assessed using the Autism-Tics, ADHD, and other Comorbidities inventory. We used structural equation modelling to decompose covariance between these ADHD and ASD trait dimensions into genetic and shared/non-shared environmental components.
At the phenotypic level, IA was similarly correlated with RRB (r = 0.33; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.31–0.36) and with SIC (r = 0.32; 95% CI 0.29–0.34), whereas HI was more strongly associated with RRB (r = 0.38; 95% CI 0.35–0.40) than with SIC (r = 0.24; 95% CI 0.21–0.26). Genetic and non-shared environmental effects accounted for similar proportions of the phenotypic correlations, whereas shared environmental effects were of minimal importance. The highest genetic correlation was between HI and RRB (r = 0.56; 95% 0.46–0.65), and the lowest was between HI and SIC (r = 0.33; 95% CI 0.23–0.43).
We found evidence for dimension-specific phenotypic and aetiological overlap between ADHD and ASD traits in adults. Future studies investigating mechanisms underlying comorbidity between ADHD and ASD may benefit from exploring several symptom-dimensions, rather than considering only broad diagnostic categories.
Recent studies point to overlap between neuropsychiatric disorders in symptomatology and genetic aetiology.
To systematically investigate genomics overlap between childhood and adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and major depressive disorder (MDD).
Analysis of whole-genome blood gene expression and genetic risk scores of 318 individuals. Participants included individuals affected with adult ADHD (n = 93), childhood ADHD (n = 17), MDD (n = 63), ASD (n = 51), childhood dual diagnosis of ADHD–ASD (n = 16) and healthy controls (n = 78).
Weighted gene co-expression analysis results reveal disorder-specific signatures for childhood ADHD and MDD, and also highlight two immune-related gene co-expression modules correlating inversely with MDD and adult ADHD disease status. We find no significant relationship between polygenic risk scores and gene expression signatures.
Our results reveal disorder overlap and specificity at the genetic and gene expression level. They suggest new pathways contributing to distinct pathophysiology in psychiatric disorders and shed light on potential shared genomic risk factors.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) persists in around two-thirds of individuals in adolescence and early adulthood.
To examine the cognitive and neurophysiological processes underlying the persistence or remission of ADHD.
Follow-up data were obtained from 110 young people with childhood ADHD and 169 controls on cognitive, electroencephalogram frequency, event-related potential (ERP) and actigraph movement measures after 6 years.
ADHD persisters differed from remitters on preparation-vigilance measures (contingent negative variation, delta activity, reaction time variability and omission errors), IQ and actigraph count, but not on executive control measures of inhibition or working memory (nogo-P3 amplitudes, commission errors and digit span backwards).
Preparation-vigilance measures were markers of remission, improving concurrently with ADHD symptoms, whereas executive control measures were not sensitive to ADHD persistence/remission. For IQ, the present and previous results combined suggest a role in moderating ADHD outcome. These findings fit with previously identified aetiological separation of the cognitive impairments in ADHD. The strongest candidates for the development of non-pharmacological interventions involving cognitive training and neurofeedback are the preparation-vigilance processes that were markers of ADHD remission.
The Lifetime Impairment Survey, conducted in Europe, assessed impairment and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood, and experiences of ADHD diagnosis and treatment, as recalled by adults.
Adults with ADHD and without ADHD (control group) were invited to participate in an internet-based survey and report on their childhood experiences. History of ADHD diagnosis was self-reported. Groups were compared using impairment and symptom scales.
Overall, 588 adults with ADHD and 736 without ADHD participated. Mean (standard deviation [SD]) age at diagnosis of ADHD was 20.0 (12.6) years (median 18.0) following consultation with 3.8 (5.1) doctors (median 2) over 44.6 (69.3) months (median 17.0). A total of 64.1% (377/588) of adults with ADHD reported frustration or difficulties during the diagnostic process. The ADHD group had a higher mean (SD) score versus control for general (3.3 [1.2] vs 2.1 [1.2]; p < 0.001) and school impairment (2.8 [0.7] vs 2.3 [0.6]; p < 0.001) but not home impairment (2.1 [0.5] for both groups).
The survey demonstrated that ADHD had a negative impact on all aspects of childhood investigated, as recalled by adults.
These data provide insights into childhood impairments and identify areas for improvement in the management and treatment of ADHD.
The Boston University Twin Project (BUTP) is a multi-method, multi-situation, longitudinal study of early child temperament and related behaviors. The first phase of this project focused primarily on activity level and comprised over 300 twin pairs assessed in the home and lab at ages 2 and 3. Subject recruitment, sample characteristics, and study procedures are described. A second phase broadens our focus to the development of multiple temperament dimensions and developmental outcomes in a new cohort of 300 twin pairs to be assessed at 3, 4, and 5 years of age. Recruitment is currently underway.