Altered spontaneous low frequency brain activity in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Suzannah K. Helps, Samantha J. Broyd, Christopher J. James, Anke Karl, Wai Chen, Edmund J. S. Sonuga-Barke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Resting brain activity appears altered in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The default mode interference hypothesis (Sonuga-Barke and Castellanos, 2007) postulates that patterns of spontaneous very low frequency brain activity, typical of the resting brain, cause attention lapses in ADHD when they remain unattenuated following the transition from rest to active task performance. Here we test this hypothesis using DC-EEG. Methods: DC-EEG recordings of very low frequency brain activity (< 1.5 Hz) were compared for 16 male children with ADHD and 16 healthy controls during both rest and active task performance (two choice reaction time task). Results: A previously identified very low frequency resting network of electrodes was replicated. At rest ADHD children showed less EEG power in very low frequency bands (i.e., .02-.2 Hz). They also showed less attenuation of power at these frequency bands during rest-to-task transition. Reduced attenuation was associated with a number of measures of performance. Discussion: We confirmed the existence of altered very low frequency brain activity in ADHD. ADHD children may have deficits both in maintaining a resting brain when needed and 'protecting' an active brain from the intrusion of resting state brain activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-143
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2010


  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Default mode
  • Direct current EEG
  • Low frequency oscillation
  • Rest-task attenuation
  • Spontaneous neuronal activity


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