ADHD is a childhood-onset behavioural disorder with a heterogeneous profile of neuropsychological impairment. Neuropsychological heterogeneity may, in part, reflect underlying genetic differences. Here we examined sustained attention, response variability and spatial attentional asymmetries in a sample of children and adolescents with ADHD (n=22) in relation to dopamine transporter genotype (DAT1) and also controls (n=20). Participants performed the sustained attention to response task (SART) (testing sustained attention and response variability) and the greyscales task (a perceptual measure of attentional bias). The latter has previously been shown to yield a robust leftward attentional asymmetry in healthy subjects. The 10-repeat allele of the DAT1 gene has been associated with ADHD in a number of studies and appears to have biological significance. The ADHD group was sub-divided into those individuals with two copies of the "high-risk" 10-repeat allele (high-risk DAT1) versus those with one or no copies of this allele (low-risk DAT1). The high-risk DAT1 ADHD group displayed greater response variability on the SART than either the low-risk DAT1 group or healthy controls, whereas the latter two groups did not differ. Further, the high-risk DAT1 group showed an attenuated spatial asymmetry, relative to the low-risk DAT1 ADHD group, who showed the typical leftward attentional asymmetry. Our results suggest that the 10-repeat DAT1 allele may mediate neuropsychological impairment in ADHD. The application of molecular genetics may help to define neuropsychological impaired subgroups of ADHD.
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