ADHD and Fidget Spinners: Using fNIRs to detect changes in Relative Neural Efficiency during the Purdue Pegboard Test

Schimmel, Austin
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University of Delaware
Introduction: Fidget spinners have been marketed as repetitive motion devices that improve attention and motor performance, and as such, they have become quite appealing to the ADHD population. Studies have found there to be a fine motor control deficiency associated with ADHD and current literature suggests fidgeting as a compensatory mechanism to help modulate attentional demands. To date, no studies have explored changes in brain activity that may occur due to fidgeting. Our aim was to use functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to examine the prefrontal cortex (PFC) during performance of a standardized fine motor skills test after using a fidget spinner to see if there were any effects on Relative Neural Efficiency (RNE). Methods: Eight right-handed adults with ADHD and eight age and gender matched Typical adults without ADHD (each group had 4 control/4 fidget) performed the Purdue Pegboard Test (PPT) while their brain oxygenation(ΔHbO) was monitored using fNIRS. The design included 3 identical blocks, each consisting of either fidget spinning or doing nothing for 1 minute followed by 4 PPT subtasks and a rest condition. The first 3 non-assembly subtasks (Right, Left, Bimanual; 30 sec each) were pseudorandomized for each participant with an additional assembly subtask always last(1 min). There was 15 seconds of rest between subtasks. Results: Two-way ANOVAs were used to analyze performance, ΔHbO, and RNE. A significant performance interaction between group and condition was found(p < 0.05). Post hoc tests revealed ADHD-Controls had a lower relative performance score for the non-assembly subtasks. The ADHD-Control group had significantly lower RNE during the non-assembly subtests(p < 0.05) but not during the Assembly subtest, in which all groups maintained average RNE. Discussion: These results suggest that during fine motor tasks that require lower cognitive effort, the fidget spinner appears to have a largely positive effect on improving performance and RNE of those with ADHD. In contrast, the fidget spinner has no effect on the already high RNE of their Typical peers. In conclusion, this suggests fidget spinners may help those with ADHD improve simple day to day tasks requiring hand-eye coordination, but not ones that require a high level of cognitive effort. However, more research is needed to evaluate the extent to which these beneficial findings can be used to help those with ADHD.
exercise science, ADHD, fidget spinners, fNIRS, purdue pegboard test