Integrating impairments in reaction time and executive function using a diffusion model framework

Sarah L. Karalunas, Cynthia L. Huang-Pollock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Using Ratcliff's diffusion model and ex-Gaussian decomposition, we directly evaluate the role individual differences in reaction time (RT) distribution components play in the prediction of inhibitory control and working memory (WM) capacity in children with and without ADHD. Children with (n = 91, x̄ age = 10.2 years, 67 % male) and without ADHD (n = 62, x̄ age = 10.6 years, 46 % male) completed four tasks of WM and a stop signal reaction time (SSRT) task. Children with ADHD had smaller WM capacities and less efficient inhibitory control. Diffusion model analyses revealed that children with ADHD had slower drift rates (v) and faster non-decision times (Ter), but there were no group differences in boundary separations (a). Similarly, using an ex-Gaussian approach, children with ADHD had larger τ values than non-ADHD controls, but did not differ in μ or σ distribution components. Drift rate mediated the association between ADHD status and performance on both inhibitory control and WM capacity. τ also mediated the ADHD-executive function impairment associations; however, models were a poorer fit to the data. Impaired performance on RT and executive functioning tasks has long been associated with childhood ADHD. Both are believed to be important cognitive mechanisms to the disorder. We demonstrate here that drift rate, or the speed at which information accumulates towards a decision, is able to explain both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-850
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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