BACKGROUND: Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibit behavioral inhibition deficits, which often lead to emotional dysregulation (ED) affecting individual ability to control emotions and behavioral responses. In ADHD, ED is associated with poor outcomes and comorbidities, with both externalizing and internalizing disorders. This work aims to evaluate sensitivity to emotional stimuli in children with ADHD using functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS).
METHODS: During frontal fNIRS recording, 20 children with ADHD and 25 typically developing (TD) peers performed a visual continuous performance task with stimuli of different emotional content (i.e., positive, negative, neutral, and control stimuli without emotional content). This is a cognitive task designed to evaluate the ability to recognize emotional stimuli and to deal with emotional interference.
RESULTS: The ADHD sample showed more variability in response time to stimuli and more false alarms compared to TD group. fNIRS data showed between-group differences in right prefrontal and frontal cortices, with wider hemoglobin concentration changes in the TD group, during positive, negative, and neutral conditions.
LIMITATIONS: Owing to the limited possibility of near infrared light to penetrate tissue, fNIRS can only measure cortical activations, while it would be of interest to identify the subcortical areas linked to emotional processing, too.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest the presence of emotional processing deficits in children with ADHD, as suggested by poor performances on the e-CPT task, and of peculiar sensitivity to emotional stimuli, linked to atypical hemodynamics of right prefrontal and frontal areas.