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The ADHD project

Since 2002 the ADHD project researches aspects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and self-regulation (the ability to control one's behaviours, emotions and attention). It was founded 2002 by Prof. Gawrilow in Konstanz and continued in Hamburg from 2005 to 2009. Since 2009 the ADHD project is part of the IDeA Centre.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence. Affected children are inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive, which leads to manifold difficulties in school and social life. Furthermore, children and adolescents with ADHD show deficits in executive function – i.e. in inhibiting behaviors and reactions or in flexible switching between tasks. Thus, their ability to self-regulate is restricted.
The ADHD project focuses mainly on two questions (1) Which competencies and deficits do children and adolescents with ADHD have? and (2) Can self-regulatory strategies be helpful to improve these deficits?

Which competencies and deficits do children and adolescents with ADHD have?

Although it is known that children with ADHD show deficits in executive function the nature of these difficulties is still in question – Research questions are for example if children with ADHD show difficulties in all domains requiring executive functioning or if all ADHD children show the same deficits. To answer these questions we develop child-oriented computer tasks taping for example inhibition of response or delay of gratification (i.e., disclaim a small reward to get a larger reward later). These and other tasks are administered to children with and without ADHD to examine specific deficits and strengths of children with ADHD. In a longitudinal study we try to identify factors indicating a risk for ADHD. For this purpose, we follow a group of children during their transition from kindergarten to school and investigate how school enrolment comes to pass for children with problems in inhibition and self-regulation. We aim at identifying risk factors for an ADHD diagnosis early to provide affected children with treatment before school enrolment.

Can self-regulatory strategies be helpful?

Although it is known that children with ADHD show deficits in executive function the nature of these difficulties is still in question – Research questions are for example if children with ADHD show difficulties in all domains requiring executive functioning or if all ADHD children show the same deficits. To answer these questions we develop child-oriented computer tasks taping for example inhibition of response or delay of gratification (i.e., disclaim a small reward to get a larger reward later). These and other tasks are administered to children with and without ADHD to examine specific deficits and strengths of children with ADHD. In a longitudinal study we try to identify factors indicating a risk for ADHD. For this purpose, we follow a group of children during their transition from kindergarten to school and investigate how school enrolment comes to pass for children with problems in inhibition and self-regulation. We aim at identifying risk factors for an ADHD diagnosis early to provide affected children with treatment before school enrolment.

Selected projects

Performance of Children with and without ADHD in a Delay Discounting Task
Theory. Previous studies revealed no differences between children with and without ADHD in a computerized delay of gratification paradigm (Gawrilow, Gollwitzer et al., in press). Therefore, we included a post reward delay (after the decision for the sooner, smaller reward children have to wait the same amount of time that they would have waited after a decision for the later, larger reward) next to the classical no post reward delay condition in a recent study.
Results. We found differences between an ADHD and a comparison group in the post reward delay condition.
Cooperations.
Antje von Suchodoletz (University of Freiburg)

Multitasking in Children with and without ADHD
Aim: We measure performance and task-perception of multitasking and two other conditions in ADHD. Design. 2 (ADHD vs. no ADHD) × 3 (multitasking, interleaving, noninterleaving) between participants. Dependent variables are performance, mood, and motivation.
Previous Result.
We found that the most structured condition (i.e., noninterleaving) reveals the best results in adults (Gawrilow, Merkt et al., 2011).

Neuronal Correlates of Executive Functions and Self-Regulation in Children with and without ADHD
Aim. EEG studies building on previous work (Gawrilow, Oettingen, et al., in press; Paul et al., 2007; Paul-Jordanov et al., 2010) are in preparation. We will investigate neuronal correlates of executive functions and the malleability of executive functions in children with ADHD in Germany and Taiwan.
Cooperations.
Isabella Paul-Jordanov (BESA GmbH, Munich), Susan Shur-Fen Gau (Department of Psychiatry, NTUH, Taiwan)

Longitudinal Study Exploring Risk- and Resilience Factors for ADHD Diagnosis in Primary School
Aim. We aim at identifying risk factors for an ADHD diagnosis in primary school.
Methods. During the last year of kindergarten we assess inhibition and self-regulation; at the end of first grade ADHD symptoms and academic achievement are measured. Preliminary Results. Analyses of a subsample show that inhibition and self-control are unrelated and that inhibition is a good predictor for quantity-number competencies.
Cooperations. Antje von Suchodoletz (University of Freiburg)

Gen-x-Environment Interactions on Decision Making in Children with ADHD
Theory.
Children with an ADHD are more impulsive than other children. Thus, children with an ADHD opt for an immediate reward instead of waiting for a larger delayed reward (delay of gratification). Furthermore, they are willing to take more risks (risky decision making).
Aim. We investigate the interplay of genetic and psychosocial factors on delay of gratification and risky decision making in children with different ADHD subtypes.
Methods. Small blood samples will be obtained from 150 children (age: 8-12) and their parents for a molecular-genetic analysis. Parent-child interactions will be measured by questionnaire as well as by observation, while the ability to delay rewards and risky decision-making behavior will be assessed via means of partly computer-based, playful tasks the children generally enjoy.

Self-Regulation in Schools: A Teacher Training to Reduce ADHD Symptoms in the Classroom 
Theory. Based on previous work (Gawrilow et al., 2010), our current research examines the differential effectiveness of if-then plans and daily diaries on reducing ADHD core symptoms in classroom settings.
Methods. Self-regulation strategies are taught to six classes of a private school for children with ADHD (N = 75) by their teachers.
Expected Results. (I) Children supplementing their goal with if-then plans will display less ADHD symptoms. (II) Effects of if-then plans on symptom reduction are even more pronounced when additional daily diaries are kept.
Cooperations.
Privates Gymnasium Esslingen
Funding.
Robert Bosch Foundation

Self-Regulation Training to Improve Executive Functions and Mood among High-Risk Adolescents
Aim. We develop a self-regulation training for adolescents which reduces depressed mood and improves executive functions through increased physical activity.
Methods.
Adolescents will be assigned either to a waiting control or an intervention group, for an18-months period (baseline and five follow-ups). Dependent variables are: accelerometers, daily mood diaries, questionnaires, and executive functions tasks.
Previous Results. We already found that the more adolescents (especially those with higher hyperactivity) exceeded their usual physical activity level, the less depressed they were in the evening.
Cooperations.
Gertraud Stadler (Columbia University, New York, USA), Weißfrauenschule (Frankfurt)
Funding
. Foundation of the Polytechnic Society (Frankfurt)

The Influence of Implementation Intentions and Motivational Goal Bracketing on Self-Regulation in Preschool Children
Aim. We will investigate the malleability of self-regulation skills in early childhood. Hence, we will investigate two different strategies which may enhance self-regulation in children: (I) motivational goal bracketing and (II) implementation intentions (Gawrilow, Oettingen, et al., in press). Second, we plan to measure the importance of these skills for children’s school readiness.
Cooperations.
Andrea Mühlenweg & Susanne Neckermann (ZEW, Mannheim), Griffin Early Childhood Center (GECC, Chicago, USA)

Stereotype threat, self-regulation and feedback
Theory.
Stereotype threat is being at risk of confirming a negative stereotype about one's group and has detrimental effects on performance. Regarding school achievement, children with a migration background are biased toward not performing as well as their German classmates in nearly every subject. In terms of math skills, girls are in general assumed to be outperformed by boys.
Aim.
To explore the buffering effects of self-regulation and feedback under stereotype threat in the classroom environment.
Link to SelF

Selected publications

Gawrilow, C., Gollwitzer, P. M. & Oettingen, G. (in press). If-then plans benefit delay of gratification performance in children with ADHD. Cognitive Therapy and Research.

Gawrilow, C., Merkt, J., Goossens-Merkt, H., Bodenburg, S., & Wendt, M. (2011). Multitasking in Adults with ADHD. ADHD, 3, 253-264.

Gawrilow, C., Gollwitzer, P. M. & Oettingen, G. (2011). If-then plans benefit executive functions in children with ADHD. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30, 615-645.

Paul-Jordanov, I., Bechtold, M. & Gawrilow, C. (2010). Methylphenidate and if-then plans are comparable in modulating the P300 and increasing response inhibition in children with ADHD. ADHD, 2, 115-126.

Gawrilow, C. (2009). ADHS. Stuttgart: UTB.

Gawrilow, C. & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2008). Implementation intentions facilitate response inhibition in children with ADHD. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 261-280.

Paul, I., Gawrilow, C., Zech, F., Gollwitzer, P. M., Rockstroh, B., Odenthal, G., Kratzer, W., & Wienbruch, C. (2007). If-Then Planning Modulates the P300 in Children with ADHD. NeuroReport, 18 , 653-657.