Increased sensitivity to perceptual interference in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Alexander Stevens, Leeza Maron, Joel Nigg, Desmond Cheung, Edward F. Ester, Edward Awh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Difficulty with selective attention is a frequent complaint of adult patients with ADHD, but selective attention tasks have not provided robust evidence of attentional dysfunction in this group. Two experiments examine this puzzle by distinguishing between failures of spatial selection and problems due to sensitivity to perceptual interference. In Experiment 1, we measured the level of perceptual interference generated by targets in crowded displays with nearby distractors by comparing luminance thresholds in both distractor-present (noise) and distractor-absent (clean) displays. ADHD and control participants had comparable thresholds for clean displays, but ADHD individuals had elevated thresholds to crowded displays. These effects could be explained in two distinct ways. Deficits may have arisen from amplified visual interference in the noise condition, or from abnormalities in top-down attentional processes that reduce visual interference. Experiment 2 adjusted for individual perceptual differences with clean and noise displays, before measuring visual interference resolution at attended versus unattended locations. ADHD and control groups had comparable interference resolution at attended locations. These results suggest that perceptual interference rather than spatial attention deficits may account for some deficits in ADHD. This putative deficit in sensory function highlights a potential early-stage perceptual processing deficit in ADHD distinct from selective attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-520
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2012

Fingerprint

ADHD
Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
interference
Noise
deficit
Individuality
experiment
Control Groups
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Interference
complaint
Group
present
evidence
Experiment
Distractor
Selective Attention

Keywords

  • Cognition
  • Contrast sensitivity
  • Psychophysics
  • Spatial selective attention
  • Visual cortex
  • Visual crowding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Increased sensitivity to perceptual interference in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. / Stevens, Alexander; Maron, Leeza; Nigg, Joel; Cheung, Desmond; Ester, Edward F.; Awh, Edward.

In: Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, Vol. 18, No. 3, 05.2012, p. 511-520.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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