Sustained attention and reinforcement are posited as causal mechanisms in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but their interaction has received little empirical study. In two studies, we examined the impact of performance-based reinforcement on sustained attention over time, or vigilance, among 9- to 12-year-old children. Study 1 demonstrated the expected vigilance deficit among children with ADHD (n = 25; 12 % female) compared to typically developing (TD) controls (n = 33; 22 % female) on a standard continuous performance task (CPT). During a subsequent visit, reinforcement improved attention more among children with ADHD than controls. Study 2 examined the separate and combined effects of reinforcement and acute methylphenidate (MPH) on CPT performance in children with ADHD (n = 19; 21 % female). Both reinforcement and MPH enhanced overall target detection and attenuated the vigilance decrement that occurred in no-reinforcement, placebo condition. Cross-study comparisons suggested that the combination of MPH and reinforcement eliminated the vigilance deficit in children with ADHD, normalizing sustained attention. This work highlights the clinically and theoretically interesting intersection of reinforcement and sustained attention.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health