Estimating the passage of minutes: Deviant oscillatory frontal activity in medicated and unmedicated ADHD

Tony W. Wilson, Elizabeth Heinrichs-Graham, Matthew L. White, Nichole L. Knott, Martin W. Wetzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objective: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common and extensively treated psychiatric disorder in children, which often persists into adulthood. The core diagnostic symptoms include inappropriate levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and/or pervasive inattention. Another crucial aspect of the disorder involves aberrations in temporal perception, which have been well documented in behavioral studies and, recently, have been the focus of neuroimaging studies. These functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown reduced activation in anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortices in ADHD using a time-interval discrimination task, whereby participants distinguish intervals differing by only hundreds of milliseconds. Method: We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to evaluate the cortical network serving temporal perception during a continuous, long-duration (in minutes) time estimation experiment. Briefly, medicated and unmedicated persons with ADHD, and a control group responded each time they estimated 60 s had elapsed for an undisclosed amount of time in two separate MEG sessions. All MEG data were transformed into regional source activity, and subjected to spectral analyses to derive amplitude estimates of gamma-band activity. Results: Compared to controls, unmedicated patients were less accurate time estimators and had weaker gamma activity in the anterior cingulate,supplementary motor area, and left prefrontal cortex. After medication, these patients exhibited small but significant increases in gamma across these same neural regions and significant improvements in time estimation accuracy, which correlated with the gamma activity increases. Conclusion: We found deficient gamma activity in brain areas known to be crucial for timing functions, which may underlie the day-to-day abnormalities in time perception that are common in ADHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)654-665
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Prefrontal
  • Stimulant
  • Temporal perception
  • Time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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