European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 24, Issue 8, pp 873–886 | Cite as

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

  • M. BinkEmail author
  • G. J. M. van Boxtel
  • A. Popma
  • I. L. Bongers
  • A. J. M. Denissen
  • Ch van Nieuwenhuizen
Original Contribution


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.


EEG ADHD Autism Theta Beta Stimulant medication 



The authors thank Carlijn Berghout, MD; Thomas Widdershoven, MSc; Marilyn Peeters, MSc; and the students for their valuable support, as well as all participating adolescents and families for their contribution and perseverance. Furthermore, we would like to thank the participating centers of child and adolescent psychiatry: GGzE, GGz Breburg, and the Reinier van Arkel group. This trial is funded by The Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw): 157 002 004. This trial is registered in the Dutch trial register (Ref. no: NTR1759

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Bink
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • G. J. M. van Boxtel
    • 2
  • A. Popma
    • 3
  • I. L. Bongers
    • 4
  • A. J. M. Denissen
    • 5
  • Ch van Nieuwenhuizen
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Scientific Center for Care and Welfare (Tranzo)Tilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  3. 3.VUmc/De Bascule, Academic Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryDuivendrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.GGzE Center for child and adolescent psychiatryEindhovenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Philips Research, Brain, Body, and Behavior GroupEindhovenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Department of Clinical NeuropsychologyVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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