EEG theta and beta power spectra in adolescents with ADHD versus adolescents with ASD plus ADHD

M. Bink, G.J.M. van Boxtel, A. Popma, I.L. Bongers, A.J.M. Denissen, Ch. van Nieuwenhuizen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Attention problems are common in youngsters with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as in adolescents with combined autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and ADHD. However, it is unknown whether there is psychophysiological overlap and/or a difference in electroencephalogram (EEG) power spectra between ADHD and comorbid ASD and ADHD (ASD + ADHD), on and off stimulant medication. To explore potential differences and overlap, measures of theta and beta power in adolescents diagnosed with ADHD (n = 33) versus adolescents with combined ASD + ADHD (n = 20), categorized by stimulant medication use (57 % of the total sample), were compared. EEG measures were acquired in three conditions: (1) resting state, eyes closed (2) resting state, eyes open and (3) during an oddball task. In addition, performance on the d2 attention test was analyzed. Adolescents with ADHD displayed more absolute theta activity than adolescents with ASD + ADHD during the eyes open and task conditions, independent of stimulant medication use. In addition, only the adolescents with ADHD showed an association between diminished attention test performance and increased theta in the eyes open condition. Results of the current study suggest that although there is behavioral overlap between ADHD characteristics in adolescents with ADHD and adolescents with combined ASD + ADHD, the underlying psychophysiological mechanisms may be different. Adolescents with ASD + ADHD exhibited fewer of the EEG physiological signs usually associated with ADHD, although there was an overlap in attentional problems between the groups. This may indicate that treatments developed for ADHD work differently in some adolescents with ASD + ADHD and adolescents with ADHD only.
Keywords: EEG, ADHD, Autism, Theta, Beta, Stimulant medication
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-886
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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