Objective: Performance monitoring deficits have been proposed as a cognitive marker involved in the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but it is unclear whether these deficits cause impairment when established action sequences conflict with environmental demands. The current study applies a novel data-analytic technique to a well-established sequence learning paradigm to investigate reactions to disruption of learned behavior in ADHD. Method: Children (ages 8-12) with and without ADHD completed a serial reaction time task in which they implicitly learned an 8-item sequence of keypresses over 5 training blocks. The training sequence was replaced with a novel sequence in a transfer block, and returned in 2 subsequent recovery blocks. Response time (RT) data were fit by a Bayesian hierarchical version of the linear ballistic accumulator model, which permitted the dissociation of learning processes from performance monitoring effects on RT. Results: Sequence-specific learning on the task was reflected in the systematic reduction of the amount of evidence required to initiate a response, and was unimpaired in ADHD. When the novel sequence onset, typically developing children displayed a shift in their attentional state while children with ADHD did not, leading to worse subsequent performance compared to controls. Conclusions: Children with ADHD are not impaired in learning novel action sequences, but display difficulty monitoring their implementation and engaging top-down control when they become inadequate. These results support theories of ADHD that highlight the interactions between monitoring processes and changing cognitive demands as the cause of selfregulation and information-processing problems in the disorder.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology