Inattention and reaction time variability are linked to ventromedial prefrontal volume in adolescents

Albaugh, Matthew D and Orr, Catherine and Chaarani, Bader and Althoff, Robert R and Allgaier, Nicholas and D’Alberto, Nicholas and Hudson, Kelsey and Mackey, Scott and Spechler, Philip A and Banaschewski, Tobias and others
Biological psychiatry, 2017


Neuroimaging studies of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have most commonly reported volumetric abnormalities in the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and prefrontal cortices. Few studies have examined the relationship between ADHD symptomatology and brain structure in population-based samples. We investigated the relationship between dimensional measures of ADHD symptomatology, brain structure, and reaction time variability—an index of lapses in attention. We also tested for associations between brain structural correlates of ADHD symptomatology and maps of dopaminergic gene expression.


Psychopathology and imaging data were available for 1538 youths. Parent ratings of ADHD symptoms were obtained using the Development and Well-Being Assessment and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Self-reports of ADHD symptoms were assessed using the youth version of the SDQ. Reaction time variability was available in a subset of participants. For each measure, whole-brain voxelwise regressions with gray matter volume were calculated.


Parent ratings of ADHD symptoms (Development and Well-Being Assessment and SDQ), adolescent self-reports of ADHD symptoms on the SDQ, and reaction time variability were each negatively associated with gray matter volume in an overlapping region of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Maps of DRD1 and DRD2 gene expression were associated with brain structural correlates of ADHD symptomatology.


This is the first study to reveal relationships between ventromedial prefrontal cortex structure and multi-informant measures of ADHD symptoms in a large population-based sample of adolescents. Our results indicate that ventromedial prefrontal cortex structure is a biomarker for ADHD symptomatology. These findings extend previous research implicating the default mode network and dopaminergic dysfunction in ADHD.