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Plugging the Attention Deficit: Perceptual Load Counters Increased Distraction in ADHD.

Forster, S; Robertson, DJ; Jennings, A; Asherson, P; Lavie, N; (2013) Plugging the Attention Deficit: Perceptual Load Counters Increased Distraction in ADHD. Neuropsychology pp. 91-97. 10.1037/neu0000020. Green open access

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Abstract

Objective: Increased vulnerability to extraneous distraction is a key symptom of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which may have particularly disruptive consequences. Here we apply Load Theory of attention to increase understanding of this symptom, and to explore a potential method for ameliorating it. Previous research in nonclinical populations has highlighted increased perceptual load as a means of improving the ability to focus attention and avoid distraction. The present study examines whether adults with ADHD can also benefit from conditions of high perceptual load to improve their focused attention abilities. Method: We tested adults with ADHD and age- and IQ-matched controls on a novel measure of irrelevant distraction under load, designed to parallel the form of distraction that is symptomatic of ADHD. During a letter search task, in which perceptual load was varied through search set size, participants were required to ignore salient yet entirely irrelevant distractors (colorful images of cartoon characters) presented infrequently (10% of trials). Results: The presence of these distractors produced a significantly greater interference effect on the search RTs for the adults with ADHD compared with controls, p = .005, ηp2 = .231. Perceptual load, however, significantly reduced distractor interference for the ADHD group and was as effective in reducing the elevated distractor interference in ADHD as it was for controls. Conclusions: These findings clarify the nature of the attention deficit underlying increased distraction in ADHD, and demonstrate a tangible method for overcoming it. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

Type: Article
Title: Plugging the Attention Deficit: Perceptual Load Counters Increased Distraction in ADHD.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/neu0000020
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/neu0000020
Language: English
Additional information: This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher. PMCID: PMC3906797
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1425379
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