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Differentiating SCT and inattentive symptoms in ADHD using fMRI measures of cognitive control


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is associated with different impairment profiles in the symptom domains of hyperactivity/impulsivity and/or inattention. An additional symptom domain of sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT) has also been proposed. Although there is a degree of correlation between the SCT symptom domain and inattention, it has been proposed as a distinct disorder independent of ADHD. The objective of this study was to examine the neural substrates of cue-related preparatory processes associated with SCT symptoms versus inattentive symptoms in a group of adolescents with ADHD. We also compared cue-related effects in the entire ADHD group compared with a group of typically developing (TD) peers. A modified cued flanker paradigm and fMRI examined brain activity associated with attention preparation and motor response preparation. Between group contrasts between the ADHD and TD group revealed significant hypoactivity in the ADHD group during general attention preparation in the supplementary motor area (SMA) and in the right superior parietal lobe (SPL) during response preparation. In the ADHD group, greater numbers of SCT symptoms were associated with hypoactivity in the left SPL to cues in general whereas greater numbers of inattentive symptoms were associated with greater activity in the SMA to cues that provided no information and less activity in the thalamus during response preparation. Hypoactivity in the SPL with increasing SCT symptoms may be associated with impaired reorienting or shifting of attention. Altered activity in the SMA and thalamus with increasing inattention may be associated with a general problem with response preparation, which may also reflect inefficient processing of the response preparation cue. Our results support a degree of differentiation between SCT and inattentive symptom profiles within adolescents with ADHD.

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