Separating Automatic and Intentional Inhibitory Mechanisms of Attention in Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder


Researchers in the cognitive sciences recognize a fundamental distinction between automatic and intentional mechanisms of inhibitory control. The use of eye-tracking tasks to assess selective attention has led to a better understanding of this distinction in specific populations, such as children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study examined automatic and intentional inhibitory control mechanisms in adults with ADHD using a saccadic interference task and a delayed ocular response task. Thirty adults with ADHD were evaluated against 27 comparison adults on measures of inhibitory control. The delayed ocular response task showed that adults with ADHD were less able than comparison adults to inhibit a reflexive saccade toward the sudden appearance of a stimulus in the periphery. However, saccadic interference task performance showed that the ADHD group did not differ significantly from the comparison group on a measure of automatic inhibitory control. These findings suggest a dissociation between automatic and intentional inhibitory deficits in adults with ADHD.

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