Testing assumptions for endophenotype studies in ADHD: Reliability and validity of tasks in a general population sample

Kuntsi, Jonna; Andreou, Penny; Ma, Jonathan; Börger, Norbert A.; van der Meere, Jaap J.
January 2005
BMC Psychiatry;2005, Vol. 5, p40
Academic Journal
Background: Advances in both genetic and cognitive-experimental studies on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have opened new opportunities for cognitive endophenotype research. In such genetic designs the focus is on individual differences in characteristics, associated with ADHD, that can be measured reliably over time. Genetic studies that take a 'quantitative trait loci' approach hypothesise that multiple susceptibility genes contribute to a continuous dimension of ADHD symptoms. As an important initial step, we aimed to investigate the underlying assumptions that (1) key cognitive-experimental tasks indicate adequate test-retest reliability and (2) ADHD symptom scores in a general population sample are associated with performance on these tasks. Methods: Forty-nine children were assessed on a go/no-go task and a reaction time task (the 'fast task') that included manipulations with event rate and incentives. The children were assessed twice, with a test-retest interval of two weeks. Results: The majority of the task variables demonstrated moderate-to-good test-retest reliability. The correlations between teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms and key task variables were .4-.6: ADHD symptoms were associated with poor performance (especially high reaction time variability) in a slow baseline condition, whereas there was low or no association in conditions with a faster event rate or incentives. In contrast, no clear pattern of findings emerged based on parent ratings of ADHD symptoms. Conclusion: The data support the usefulness of the go/no-go and fast tasks for genetic studies, which require reliable and valid indices of individual differences. The overall pattern of associations between teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms and task variables is consistent with effects of event rate and incentives on performance, as predicted by the model of activation and arousal regulation. The lack of a clear pattern of findings with parent ratings of ADHD symptoms warrants further study.


Related Articles


Other Topics