Event-Related Potential Study of Attention Regulation During Illusory Figure Categorization Task in ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Typical Children


  • Estate M. Sokhadze
  • Joshua M. Baruth
  • Lonnie Sears
  • Guela E. Sokhadze
  • Ayman S. El-Baz
  • Emily L. Williams
  • Robert Klapheke
  • Manuel F. Casanova




Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are very common developmental disorder that share some similar symptoms of social, emotional, and attentional deficits. This study is aimed to help understand the differences and similarities of these deficits using analysis of dense-array event-related potentials (ERP) during an illusory figure recognition task. Although ADHD and ASD seem very distinct, they have been shown to share some similarities in their symptoms. Our hypothesis was that children with ASD will show less pronounced differences in ERP responses to target and nontarget stimuli as compared to typical children and, to a lesser extent, ADHD. Participants were children with ASD (N¼16), ADHD (N¼16), and controls (N¼16). EEG was collected using a 128-channel EEG system. The task involved the recognition of a specific illusory shape, in this case a square or triangle, created by three or four inducer disks. There were no between-group differences in reaction time (RT) to target stimuli, but both ASD and ADHD committed more errors; specifically, the ASD group had statistically higher commission error rate than controls. Posterror RT in ASD group was exhibited in a posterror speeding rather than corrective RT slowing typical for the controls. The ASD group also demonstrated an attenuated error-related negativity as compared to ADHD and controls. The fronto-central P200, N200, and P300 were enhanced and less differentiated in response to target and nontarget figures in the ASD group. The same ERP components were marked by more prolonged latencies in the ADHD group as compared to both ASD and typical controls. The findings are interpreted according to the ‘‘minicolumnar’’ hypothesis proposing existence of neuropathological differences in ASD and ADHD, specifically minicolumnar number/width morphometry spectrum differences. In autism, a model of local hyperconnectivity and long-range  hypoconnectivity explains many of the behavioral and cognitive deficits present in the condition, whereas the inverse arrangement of local hypoconnectivity and long-range hyperconnectivity in ADHD explains some deficits typical for this disorder. The current ERP study supports the proposed suggestion that some between-group differences could be manifested in the frontal ERP indices of executive functions during performance on an illusory figure categorization task.