Video Game Performance in ADHD Children

Dr Shelley Hyman

Playing video games has become one of the most popular leisure activities of children with ADHD, with many parents reporting that their children will engage with these tasks despite being reluctant when it comes to other activities requiring similar mental effort. Video games require sustained attention and the ability to maintain inhibitory control over time; therefore children with ADHD should display impaired performance on these tasks due to deficits in these areas. However, this does not appear to be the case.

A study by Bioulac and colleagues (2014) compared the video game performance of 26 boys with ADHD (average age of 8.3 years) to 16 boys without ADHD (average age of 7.8 years). The games included were Secret Agent, Bubble Pop and Kung 2 and all were played twice on PlayStation®Sony. In order to measure the performance of the boys on these games, their total scores for each game were recorded as well as game-specific scores such as how many bubbles were burst in Bubble Pop. There was no relationship found between the frequency of play and the performance on the video games, indicating that this was not a factor in how well the boys performed at the games.

In this study, it appeared that the children with ADHD performed equally as well as those without ADHD. This was true for both sessions of all three video games. This is interesting when considering that children with ADHD typically display poor inhibitory control, as it suggests that when playing video games there is a reduction in these deficits. But why?

The authors of the above study suggest that motivation, effort and interest come into play in relation to these findings. These are likely to be heightened during involvement with video games, and the similarities in performance between ADHD children and the control group suggest that inhibitory capacity seems to be dependent on both the context of the task and the motivation for completing it.

The findings suggest that, despite having more problems with stopping or inhibiting behavior, children with ADHD are able to perform some tasks just as well as other children given they have appropriate motivation. This motivational state depends on personal and situational factors, and its influence indicates the importance of differentiating between performance and ability.

Overall, this study provides useful information about the potential for unlocking unharnessed capabilities in children with ADHD, and may shed light on exciting prospects for educational interventions to maximize their likelihood of success.


  • Bioulac, S., Lallemand, S., Fabrigoule, C., Thoumy, A. L., Philip, P., & Bouvard, M. P. (2012). Video game performances are preserved in ADHD children compared with controls. Journal of attention disorders, 1087054712443702.
    Emma Waite
Dr Shelley Hyman

About Dr Shelley Hyman

Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist. BSc (psychol) Hons, MClinNeuropsych, PhD (Med) MAPS CCN. Founder and director of the centre that was founded in 2006.