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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Executive and motivational processes in adolescents with Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Maggie E Toplak12*, Umesh Jain3 and Rosemary Tannock14

Author Affiliations

1 Brain and Behaviour Research Program, Research Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada

2 York University, Toronto, Canada

3 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada

4 Centre for Advanced Study at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters 2004–2005

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Behavioral and Brain Functions 2005, 1:8  doi:10.1186/1744-9081-1-8

Published: 27 June 2005



The objective of the current study was to examine performance and correlates of performance on a decision-making card task involving risky choices (Iowa Gambling Task) in adolescents with ADHD and comparison controls. Forty-four participants with ADHD and 34 controls were administered measures of estimated intellectual ability, working memory, and the card task. Also, behavioural ratings were obtained from parents and teachers.


Adolescents with ADHD scored lower on the measures of intellectual ability, working memory, and made less advantageous selections on the card task compared to controls. Performance on measures of intellectual ability and working memory were unrelated to card task performance in both the ADHD and control samples. Parent ratings of hyperactivity/impulsivity were significantly associated with card task performance in the adolescents with ADHD, but not in controls.


These findings demonstrate impaired decision-making in adolescents with ADHD, and the separability of motivational and executive function processes, supporting current dual pathway models of ADHD.