Diminished inhibitory control has been proposed as a core characteristic and potential endophenotype of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If this is the case, one would expect to find this trait among first-degree relatives of individuals with ADHD. The aim of this study, therefore, was to determine whether the oculomotor measures typically related to inhibitory control failures in individuals with ADHD are also observed among those relatives.
Using prosaccadic and antisaccadic tasks in gap and overlap conditions, we assessed a group of unaffected parents of children with ADHD symptoms and compared them to a group of unaffected parents of children with typical development. Direction errors, anticipatory errors and saccadic reaction times were analyzed. We also determined the presence of ADHD behaviors (in adulthood and childhood) in all participants.
No between-group differences were observed for the antisaccadic measures, but the group of parents of children with ADHD made more anticipatory responses on the prosaccadic-gap task than the parents of controls. A moderate association between these anticipatory errors and dimensional inattention scores was also found.
Saccadic performance differed between the two groups of parents, as those with children with ADHD showed a failure to withhold the initiation of responses in the absence of external control references (gap condition) on tasks with low cognitive load (prosaccadic). These anticipatory responses were related to inattention traits. Our results support the familial compound of ADHD as a multifactorial disorder.