Shared genetic influences on ADHD symptoms and very low-frequency EEG activity: a twin study

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Background:  Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common and highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder with a complex aetiology. The identification of candidate intermediate phenotypes that are both heritable and genetically linked to ADHD may facilitate the detection of susceptibility genes and elucidate aetiological pathways. Very low-frequency (VLF; <0.5 Hz) electroencephalographic (EEG) activity represents a promising indicator of risk for ADHD, but it currently remains unclear as to whether it is heritable or genetically linked to the disorder.
Methods:  Direct-current (DC)-EEG was recorded during a cognitive activation condition in 30 monozygotic and dizygotic adolescent twin pairs concordant or discordant for high ADHD symptom scores, and 37 monozygotic and dizygotic matched-control twin pairs with low ADHD symptom scores. Structural equation modelling was used to quantify the genetic and environmental contributions to the phenotypic covariance between ADHD and VLF activity.
Results:  Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was significantly associated with reduced VLF power during cognitive activation, which suggests reduced synchronization of widespread neuronal activity. Very low-frequency power demonstrated modest heritability (0.31), and the genetic correlation (−0.80) indicated a substantial degree of overlap in genetic influences on ADHD and VLF activity.
Conclusions:  Altered VLF activity is a potential candidate intermediate phenotype of ADHD, which warrants further investigation of underlying neurobiological and genetic mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberN/A
Pages (from-to)706-715
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number6
Early online date28 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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