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Disturbed microstructural integrity of the frontostriatal fiber pathways and executive dysfunction in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

  • C. Y. Shang (a1), Y. H. Wu (a2), S. S. Gau (a1) (a3) and W. Y. Tseng (a3) (a4) (a5)



Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is recognized as an early-onset neuropsychiatric disorder with executive dysfunctions and neurobiological deficits. The authors compared executive functions and microstructural integrity of the frontostriatal circuit in children with ADHD and typically developing children.


We assessed 25 children with ADHD and 25 age-, sex-, handedness- and intelligence-matched typically developing children by using psychiatric interviews, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – third edition, and the tasks involving executive functions in the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. The frontostriatal tracts were reconstructed by diffusion spectrum imaging tractography and were subdivided into four functionally distinct segments, including dorsolateral, medial prefrontal, orbitofrontal and ventrolateral tracts. Tract-specific and matched case-control analyses were used and generalized fractional anisotropy values were computed.


Children with ADHD had lower generalized fractional anisotropy of all the bilateral frontostriatal fiber tracts and poorer performance in verbal and spatial working memory, set-shifting, sustained attention, cognitive inhibition and visuospatial planning. The symptom severity of ADHD and the executive functioning performance significantly correlated with integrity of the frontostriatal tracts, particularly the left orbitofrontal and ventrolateral tracts. Children with ADHD also demonstrated loss of the leftward asymmetry in the dorsolateral and medial prefrontal tracts that was present in typically developing children.


Our findings demonstrate disturbed structural connectivity of the frontostriatal circuitry in children with ADHD and add new evidence of associations between integrity of the frontostriatal tracts and measures of core symptoms of ADHD and a wide range of executive dysfunctions in both groups.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: S. S. Gau, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital, No. 7, Chung-Shan South Road, Taipei 10002, Taiwan. (Email: [S.S.G.]
(Email: [W.Y.T.]


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