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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01997

Habit Expression and Disruption as a Function of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomology

 Ahmet O. Ceceli1*, Giavanna Esposito2 and  Elizabeth Tricomi1
  • 1Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, United States
  • 2New Jersey Institute of Technology, United States

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with neurobehavioral reward system dysfunctions that pose debilitating impairments in adaptive decision-making. A candidate mechanism for such anomalies in ADHD may be a compromise in the control of motivated behaviors. Thus, demonstrating and restoring potential motivational control irregularities may serve significant clinical benefit. The motivational control of action guides goal-directed behaviors that are driven by outcome value, and habits that are inflexibly cue-triggered. We examined whether ADHD symptomology within the general population is linked to habitual control, and whether a motivation-based manipulation can break well-learned habits. We obtained symptom severity scores from 106 participants and administered a Go/NoGo task that capitalizes on familiar, well-learned associations (green-Go and red-NoGo) to demonstrate outcome-insensitivity when compared to newly-learned Go/NoGo associations. We tested for outcome-insensitive habits by changing the Go and NoGo contingencies, such that Go signals became NoGo signals and vice versa. We found that generally, participants responded less accurately when green and red stimuli were mapped to color-response contingencies that were incongruent with daily experiences, whereas novel Go/NoGo stimuli evoked similar accuracy regardless of color-response mappings. Thus, our Go/NoGo task successfully elicited outcome-insensitive habits (i.e., persistent responses to familiar stimuli without regard for consequences); however, this effect was independent of ADHD symptomology. Nevertheless, we found an association between hyperactivity and congruent Go response latency, suggesting heightened pre-potency to perform habitual Go actions as hyperactivity increases. To examine habit disruption, participants returned to the lab and underwent the familiar version of the Go/NoGo task, but were given mid-experiment performance tracking information and a monetary incentive prior to contingency change. We found that this motivational boost via dual feedback prevented the incongruency-related accuracy impairment, effectively breaking the habit, albeit independent of ADHD symptomology. Our findings present only a modest link between ADHD symptomology and motivational control, which may be due to compensatory mechanisms in ADHD driving goal-directed control, or our task’s potential insensitivity to individual differences in ADHD symptomology. Further investigations may be crucial for determining whether ADHD is related to motivational impairments.

Keywords: ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder), habit, Goal-directed action; Habit; Instrumental conditioning; Outcome devaluation; Rat; Sensory-specific satiety, Motivation (psychology), Reward

Received: 14 Mar 2019; Accepted: 14 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

John A. Bargh, Yale University, United States

Reviewed by:

Laura Bradfield, Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Ofir Turel, California State University, Fullerton, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Ceceli, Esposito and Tricomi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Ahmet O. Ceceli, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, Newark, United States,