Autonomic arousal profiles in adolescents and young adults with ADHD as a function of recording context

Ebba Du Rietz, Sarah-Naomi James, Tobias Banaschewski, Daniel Brandeis, Philip Asherson, Jonna Kuntsi

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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A recent study (James et al. 2016) found that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was associated with hypo-arousal, indexed by low electrodermal activity, during a low-demand reaction-time task, which normalized in a fast-incentive condition. We now investigate if (1) autonomic arousal in individuals with ADHD changes over a long testing session and (2) across time, to clarify if arousal profiles are context-dependent. We also examine (3) how autonomic arousal relates to each ADHD symptom domain, and specificity of arousal profiles to ADHD, by controlling for oppositional defiant/conduct disorder (ODD/CD) symptoms. Skin conductance level and non-specific fluctuations were measured during four successive resting-state and cognitive conditions (Resting-state time 1, Continuous Performance Task, Fast Task: Baseline and Fast-Incentive conditions, Resting-state time 2) from 71 adolescents/young adults with ADHD and 140 controls. Lower arousal was observed in individuals with ADHD only during a slow, low-demanding task, and more fluctuating arousal was observed towards the end of assessment. Both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were associated with arousal levels and fluctuations, independently from ODD/CD. Overall, we extend previous findings showing that under-arousal, but also fluctuating arousal, are context-specific rather than stable impairments in ADHD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-220
Number of pages9
JournalPsychiatry Research
Early online date26 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • ADHD
  • Electrodermal activity
  • Phasic arousal
  • Skin conductance
  • Tonic arousal


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