, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 521-534
Date: 13 Dec 2008

Hyperactivity in Boys with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A Ubiquitous Core Symptom or Manifestation of Working Memory Deficits?

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Hyperactivity is currently considered a core and ubiquitous feature of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); however, an alternative model challenges this premise and hypothesizes a functional relationship between working memory (WM) and activity level. The current study investigated whether children’s activity level is functionally related to WM demands associated with the domain-general central executive and subsidiary storage/rehearsal components using tasks based on Baddeley’s (Working memory, thought, and action. New York: Oxford University Press 2007) WM model. Activity level was objectively measured 16 times per second using wrist- and ankle-worn actigraphs while 23 boys between 8 and 12 years of age completed control tasks and visuospatial/phonological WM tasks of increasing memory demands. All children exhibited significantly higher activity rates under all WM relative to control conditions, and children with ADHD (n = 12) moved significantly more than typically developing children (n = 11) under all conditions. Activity level in all children was associated with central executive but not storage/rehearsal functioning, and higher activity rates exhibited by children with ADHD under control conditions were fully attenuated by removing variance directly related to central executive processes.