Year 2021
October 2021


Abstract Title
Sustained Attention: Differences across children with neurodevelopmental disorders and healthy controls



Institute of Mental Health1, Yale-NUS College2

Background & Hypothesis

Information-processing deficits are common in children with ADHD and ASD. In particular, the ability to sustain attention is of interest because it affects learning and behavioural outcomes. Varying measures of sustained attention have yielded different results across studies. Using the Sustained Attention Response Task (SART), this study aims to understand the differences in the ability to sustain attention between healthy controls and individuals with ADHD, ASD, and comorbid ASD and ADHD within an Asian context.


77 participants (16 ASD, 28 ADHD, 17 Comorbid, 16 Controls) between 7 and 19 years of age (M=12.87, SD=2.82) were recruited as part of a larger study. Parents provided demographic information while the child completed computerized tasks. During the auditory and visual SART, participants were presented with a sequence of digits (1-9) for X ms over 5 minutes. They were instructed to press a button each time except when ‘3’ was presented.


No significant differences were found in the hit rate across all four groups. However, there was a significant difference in the reaction time between groups on both the auditory [F(3,73)=4.65, p=0.005] and visual [F(3,73)=4.59, p=0.005] SART. The ADHD group exhibited the longest reaction time, which was significantly different from the ASD group (p=0.003), who had the fastest reaction times.

Discussion & Conclusion

Response accuracy was comparable across the clinical groups and controls. The longer reaction times in the ADHD group may indicate differing information processing compared to participants with ASD. This has further clinical implications, as the SART could potentially differentiate between ASD and ADHD diagnoses.