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Increased pupil dilation to happy faces in children with hyperactive/impulsive symptoms of ADHD

  • Johan Lundin Kleberg (a1) (a2) (a3), Matilda A. Frick (a1) and Karin C. Brocki (a1)


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with disrupted emotional processes including impaired regulation of approach behavior and positive affect, irritability, and anger. Enhanced reactivity to emotional cues may be an underlying process. Pupil dilation is an indirect index of arousal, modulated by the autonomic nervous system and activity in the locus coeruleus-noradrenergic system. In the current study, pupil dilation was recorded while 8- to 12- year old children (n = 71, 26 with a diagnosis of ADHD and 45 typically developing), viewed images of emotional faces. Parent-rated hyperactive/impulsive symptoms were uniquely linked to higher pupil dilation to happy, but not fearful, angry, or neutral faces. This was not explained by comorbid externalizing symptoms. Together, these results suggest that hyperactive/impulsive symptoms are associated with hyperresponsiveness to approach-related emotional cues across a wide range of symptom severity.

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Corresponding author

Author for Correspondence: Johan Lundin Kleberg, Centre for Psychiatry Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet & Stockholm Health Care Services, Region Stockholm, Gävlegatan 22, 113 30 Stockholm, Sweden; E-mail:


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Increased pupil dilation to happy faces in children with hyperactive/impulsive symptoms of ADHD

  • Johan Lundin Kleberg (a1) (a2) (a3), Matilda A. Frick (a1) and Karin C. Brocki (a1)


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