Background: Several models of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) propose abnormalities in the response to behavioural contingencies. Using event-related potentials (ERPs), the present study investigated the monitoring and subsequent evaluation of performance feedback resulting in either reward or punishment in children with ADHD (N = 18) and normal controls (N = 18) aged 8 to 12 years. Methods: Children performed a time production task, in which visual performance feedback was given after each response. To manipulate its motivational salience, feedback was coupled with monetary gains, losses or no incentives. Results: Performance feedback signalling omitted gains as well as omitted losses evoked a feedback-related negativity (FRN) in control children. The FRN, however, was entirely absent in children with ADHD in all conditions. Moreover, while losses elicited enhanced amplitudes of the late positive potential (LPP) in controls, omitted rewards had this effect in ADHD. Conclusions: The lack of modulation of the FRN by contingencies in ADHD suggests deficient detection of environmental cues as a function of their motivational significance. LPP findings suggest diminished response to punishment, but oversensitivity to the loss of desired rewards. These findings suggest that children with ADHD have problems assigning relative motivational significance to outcomes of their actions.

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Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Meel, C., Heslenfeld, D., Oosterlaan, J., Luman, M., & Sergeant, J. (2011). ERPs associated with monitoring and evaluation of monetary reward and punishment in children with ADHD. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52(9), 942–953. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02352.x