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Visual Network Asymmetry and Default Mode Network Function in ADHD: An fMRI Study



A growing body of research has identified abnormal visual information processing in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In particular, slow processing speed and increased reliance on visuo-perceptual strategies have become evident.


The current study used recently developed fMRI methods to replicate and further examine abnormal rightward biased visual information processing in ADHD and to further characterize the nature of this effect; we tested its association with several large-scale distributed network systems.


We examined fMRI BOLD response during letter and location judgment tasks, and directly assessed visual network asymmetry and its association with large-scale networks using both a voxelwise and an averaged signal approach.


Initial within-group analyses revealed a pattern of left-lateralized visual cortical activity in controls but right-lateralized visual cortical activity in ADHD children. Direct analyses of visual network asymmetry confirmed atypical rightward bias in ADHD children compared to controls. This ADHD characteristic was atypically associated with reduced activation across several extra-visual networks, including the default mode network (DMN). We also found atypical associations between DMN activation and ADHD subjects' inattentive symptoms and task performance.


The current study demonstrated rightward VNA in ADHD during a simple letter discrimination task. This result adds an important novel consideration to the growing literature identifying abnormal visual processing in ADHD. We postulate that this characteristic reflects greater perceptual engagement of task-extraneous content, and that it may be a basic feature of less efficient top-down task-directed control over visual processing. We additionally argue that abnormal DMN function may contribute to this characteristic.

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