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Modifiable Arousal in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Its Etiological Association With Fluctuating Reaction Times

James, S-N; Cheung, CHM; Rijsdijk, F; Asherson, P; Kuntsi, J; (2016) Modifiable Arousal in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Its Etiological Association With Fluctuating Reaction Times. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging , 1 (6) pp. 539-547. 10.1016/j.bpsc.2016.06.003. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Cognitive theories of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) propose that high within-subject fluctuations of cognitive performance in ADHD, particularly reaction time (RT) variability (RTV), may reflect arousal dysregulation. However, direct evidence of arousal dysregulation and how it may account for fluctuating RTs in ADHD is limited. We used skin conductance (SC) as a measure of peripheral arousal and aimed to investigate its phenotypic and familial association with RTV in a large sample of ADHD and control sibling pairs. METHODS: Adolescents and young adults (N = 292), consisting of 73 participants with ADHD and their 75 siblings, and 72 controls and their 72 siblings, completed the baseline (slow, unrewarded) and fast-incentive conditions of a RT task, while SC was simultaneously recorded. RESULTS: A significant group-by-condition interaction emerged for SC level (SCL). Participants with ADHD had decreased SCL, compared with controls, in the baseline condition but not the fast-incentive condition. Baseline SCL was negatively associated with RTV, and multivariate model fitting demonstrated that the covariance of SCL with RTV, and of SCL with ADHD, was mostly explained by shared familial effects. CONCLUSIONS: ADHD is associated with decreased, but modifiable, tonic peripheral arousal. A shared familial cause underlies the relationship between arousal and RTV and between arousal and ADHD. Given the malleability of SCL, if our findings are replicated, it warrants further exploration as a potential treatment target for ADHD.

Type: Article
Title: Modifiable Arousal in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Its Etiological Association With Fluctuating Reaction Times
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2016.06.003
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2016.06.003
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: ADHD, Arousal, Familial influences, Reaction time variability, Sibling study, Skin conductance
UCL classification: 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 Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1559064
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