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Age-Normative Pathways of Striatal Connectivity Related to Clinical Symptoms in the General Population



Altered striatal development contributes to core deficits in motor and inhibitory control, impulsivity, and inattention associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and may likewise play a role in deficient reward processing and emotion regulation in psychosis and depression. The maturation of striatal connectivity has not been well characterized, particularly as it relates to clinical symptomatology.


Resting-state functional connectivity with striatal subdivisions was examined for 926 participants (8-22 years of age, 44% male) from the general population who had participated in two large cross-sectional studies. Developing circuits were identified and growth charting of age-related connections was performed to obtain individual scores reflecting relative neurodevelopmental attainment. Associations of clinical symptom scales (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, psychosis, depression, and general psychopathology) with the resulting striatal connectivity age-deviation scores were then tested using elastic net regression.


Linear and nonlinear developmental patterns occurred across 231 striatal age-related connections. Both unique and overlapping striatal age-related connections were associated with the four symptom domains. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder severity was related to age-advanced connectivity across several insula subregions, but to age-delayed connectivity with the nearby inferior frontal gyrus. Psychosis was associated with advanced connectivity with the medial prefrontal cortex and superior temporal gyrus, while aberrant limbic connectivity predicted depression. The dorsal posterior insula, a region involved in pain processing, emerged as a strong contributor to general psychopathology as well as to each individual symptom domain.


Developmental striatal pathophysiology in the general population is consistent with dysfunctional circuitry commonly found in clinical populations. Atypical age-normative connectivity may thereby reflect aberrant neurodevelopmental processes that contribute to clinical risk.

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