PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Mental Health - Neuroscience - Pediatrics and Child Health

Response Inhibition Impairment in High Functioning Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence from Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Data
Published: Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Author: Ting Xiao et al.

by Ting Xiao, Zhou Xiao, Xiaoyan Ke, Shanshan Hong, Hongyu Yang, Yanli Su, Kangkang Chu, Xiang Xiao, Jiying Shen, Yijun Liu


Response inhibition, an important domain of executive function (EF), involves the ability to suppress irrelevant or interfering information and impulses. Previous studies have shown impairment of response inhibition in high functioning autism (HFA) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but more recent findings have been inconsistent. To date, almost no studies have been conducted using functional imaging techniques to directly compare inhibitory control between children with HFA and those with ADHD.


Nineteen children with HFA, 16 age- and intelligence quotient (IQ)-matched children with ADHD, and 16 typically developing (TD) children were imaged using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) while performing Go/No-go and Stroop tasks.


Compared with the TD group, children in both the HFA and ADHD groups took more time to respond during the No-go blocks, with reaction time longest for HFA and shortest for TD. Children in the HFA and ADHD groups also made a greater number of reaction errors in the No-go blocks than those in the TD group. During the Stroop task, there were no significant differences between these three groups in reaction time and omission errors. Both the HFA and ADHD groups showed a higher level of inactivation in the right prefrontal cortex (PFC) during the No-go blocks, relative to the TD group. However, no significant differences were found between groups in the levels of oxyhemoglobin concentration in the PFC during the Stroop task.


Functional brain imaging using NIRS showed reduced activation in the right PFC in children with HFA or ADHD during an inhibition task, indicating that inhibitory dysfunction is a shared feature of both HFA and ADHD.