Background: The neural correlates of executive function disorders are thought to be predominantly localized within the prefrontal cortex (PFC). However, no study to date has investigated changes in this system across different age groups in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Thus, this study aimed to explore changes in PFC function in children with ADHD. Methods: Study participants included typically developing (TD) children (n = 140) and children with ADHD (n = 67) of primary school age. Behavioral executive functions and their neural basis were evaluated between the TD children and children with ADHD and also across different age periods (younger and older children). To examine executive function, inhibitory control was assessed using the reverse Stroop task, and PFC near-infrared spectroscopic measurements were used to investigate the neural mechanisms involved. Results: Both ADHD symptoms and the ability to inhibit color interference improved with age. Compared to TD children, children with ADHD demonstrated decreased activation of the right and middle PFC across all age groups. Interestingly, the left PFC appeared to play a compensatory role. Conclusion: Children with ADHD exhibited changes in PFC function that varied with age. Longitudinal studies are required to assess the potential of using PFC function as an early biomarker of ADHD.
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