Atypical neural responses to vocal anger in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.


Background Deficits in facial emotion processing, reported in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), have been linked to both early perceptual and later attentional components of event-related potentials (ERPs). However, the neural underpinnings of vocal emotion processing deficits in ADHD have yet to be characterised. Here, we report the first ERP study of vocal affective prosody processing in ADHD. Methods Event-related potentials of 6-11-year-old children with ADHD (n = 25) and typically developing controls (n = 25) were recorded as they completed a task measuring recognition of vocal prosodic stimuli (angry, happy and neutral). Audiometric assessments were conducted to screen for hearing impairments. Results Children with ADHD were less accurate than controls at recognising vocal anger. Relative to controls, they displayed enhanced N100 and attenuated P300 components to vocal anger. The P300 effect was reduced, but remained significant, after controlling for N100 effects by rebaselining. Only the N100 effect was significant when children with ADHD and comorbid conduct disorder (n = 10) were excluded. Conclusion This study provides the first evidence linking ADHD to atypical neural activity during the early perceptual stages of vocal anger processing. These effects may reflect preattentive hyper-vigilance to vocal anger in ADHD.