According to a Karolinska Institutet new study, individuals with ADHD who don’t meet the criteria for diagnosis are less likely to be able perform tasks that require attentional regulation or emotional control. Biological Psychology: Cognitive Neuroscience, and NeuroimagingReports
Although it can cause cognitive impairments in multiple ways, there are many individuals who are sensitive to the effects of insomnia. This variability remains a mystery. The present study was conducted by KI researchers to examine how sleep deprivation affects executive functions, that is, the central cognitive processes that control our thoughts and actions. They also wanted to determine if ADHD sufferers are more sensitive to sleep deprivation and have more severe functional impairments.
ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder) is characterized as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. However, each person’s symptoms may vary and sometimes include emotional instability.
“You could say many people have subclinical ADHD-like symptoms, but a diagnosis can only be made when the symptoms become so severe that they interfere with our daily lives,” Predrag Petrovic (consultant and associate professor in psychotherapy at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden), who led the study with Tina Sundelin, John Axelsson, both researchers at Karolinska Institutet as well as the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University.
The study included 180 healthy participants, aged between 17-45 years old, with no ADHD diagnosis. On the Brown Attention Deficit Disorder, (B-ADD), scale, tendencies to inattention and emotional instability were evaluated.
Randomly, participants were assigned to one of two groups: one that allowed them to sleep normally and one that had been deprived of sleep for a night. The participants were then instructed by Stroop to perform a test measuring executive functions and emotional control on the next day (a Stroop Test with neutral and emotionally-faced faces).
The sleep-deprived group performed worse on the experimental tasks (including greater cognitive response variability). People with high ADHD-traits were more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation and had greater impairment than those with lower ADHD-traits.
These effects were also related with the most prevalent subclinical ADHD-like symptoms. Participants with more emotional instability and everyday problems had greater difficulty with the cognitive task involving emotions regulation. Participants with more inattention symptoms had greater difficulties with the non-emotional cognitive tasks.
Dr Petrovic explains that one of the reasons these results are important, is that we know that young adults are getting less sleep than they did ten years ago. “If young people with ADHD-traits get too much sleep, they will be less cognitively sharp and might even have clinically significant symptoms.”
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