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To extract meaningful information from complex auditory scenes like a noisy playground, rock concert, or classroom, children can direct attention to different sound streams. One means of accomplishing this might be to align neural activity with the temporal structure of a target stream, such as a specific talker or melody. However, this may be more difficult for children with ADHD, who can struggle with accurately perceiving and producing temporal intervals. In this EEG study, we found that school-aged children's attention to one of two temporally-interleaved isochronous tone 'melodies' was linked to an increase in phase-locking at the melody's rate, and a shift in neural phase that aligned the neural responses with the attended tone stream. Children's attention task performance and neural phase alignment with the attended melody were linked to performance on temporal production tasks, suggesting that children with more robust control over motor timing were better able to direct attention to the time points associated with the target melody. Finally, we found that although children with ADHD performed less accurately on the tonal attention task than typically developing children, they showed the same degree of attentional modulation of phase locking and neural phase shifts, suggesting that children with ADHD may have difficulty with attentional engagement rather than attentional selection.

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ADHD, Attention, Auditory, EEG, Rhythm