Vol. 8, No. 1, 2002 Page 4

Attentional deficits of children with CD
resemble those seen in antisocial adults

Children with both conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibit physiological patterns similar to those of antisocial adults, according to a recent study, while children with ADHD alone do not show these similarities.

Sabine Herpertz et al. studied 21 ADHD boys and 26 boys with both ADHD and CD, comparing them to boys who did not exhibit either disorder. Subjects were between the ages of 8 and 13.

Measuring skin conductance, heart rate changes, and eye blinks in response to stimuli, the researchers found that boys with both ADHD and CD showed deficits in allocating attention to stimuli, and in disengaging from an activity when an aversive "startle" stimulus occurred. The latter finding in particular, they say, "suggests that insufficient anticipatory fear may... be a feature boys with ADHD plus CD have in common with antisocial adults." Children with ADHD but not conduct disorder had response patterns more similar to those of the controls.

"Because low autonomic response is thought to be a marker for future increased likelihood of antisocial behaviors," the researchers say, "further research should include longitudinal studies testing whether psychophysiological responses increase our ability to predict outcome of boys with [disruptive] disorders and thus may provide an opportunity for early intervention."


"Psychophysiological responses in ADHD boys with and without conduct disorder: implications for adult antisocial behavior," Sabine C. Herpertz, Britta Wenning, Bodo Mueller, Mutaz Qunaibi, Henning Sass, and Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 40, No. 10, October 1, 2001, 1222. Address: Sabine Herpertz, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Aachen Technical University, Aachen, Germany.

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