This study examined the underarousal/optimal stimulation theory of ADHD. This theory states that an optimal level of arousal is maintained through moderation of incoming sensory stimuli (Zentall & Zentall, 1983). It is proposed that some of the deviant behavior displayed by hyperactive children represents a functional set of responses to conditions of abnormal sensory input. Attempts to correct this imbalance in arousal through chemical and sensory stimulation have been relatively successful. A recent study supported this theory by demonstrating the positive effect of music on children doing arithmetic problems. Using college students with a tendency toward attention disorders, the present study examined the effects of external auditory stimulation on reading comprehension. Students read passages during high stimulation (music), low stimulation (speech) and no stimulation (silence). The students with low tendency toward ADHD performed similarly under all three conditions. In contrast, the students with a high tendency did significantly worse under the music condition than speech or silence conditions. These results do not support the underarousal/optimal stimulation theory.
Reining '99, Angela M., "Adult Attention Disorders: The Effect of External Auditory Stimulation of Attention and Comprehension During Reading" (1999). Honors Projects. 61.