Adult ADHD and working memory: Neural evidence of impaired encoding
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OBJECTIVES: To investigate neural and behavioural correlates of visual encoding during a working memory (WM) task in young adults with and without Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). METHODS: A sample of 30 college students currently meeting a diagnosis of ADHD and 25 typically developing students, matched on age and gender, performed a delayed match-to-sample task with low and high memory load conditions. Dense-array electroencephalography was recorded. Specifically, the P3, an event related potential (ERP) associated with WM, was examined because of its relation with attentional allocation during WM. Task performance (accuracy, reaction time) as well as performance on other neuropsychological tasks of WM was analyzed. RESULTS: Neural differences were found between the groups. Specifically, the P3 amplitude was smaller in the ADHD group compared to the comparison group for both load conditions at parietal-occipital sites. Lower scores on behavioural working memory tasks were suggestive of impaired behavioural WM performance in the ADHD group. CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this study provide the first evidence of neural differences in the encoding stage of WM in young adults with ADHD, suggesting ineffective allocation of attentional resources involved in encoding of information in WM. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings, reflecting alternate neural functioning of WM, may explain some of the difficulties related to WM functioning that college students with ADHD report in their every day cognitive functioning.
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