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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) share abnormalities in hot executive functions such as reward-based decision-making, as measured in the temporal discounting task (TD). No studies, however, have directly compared these disorders to investigate common/distinct neural profiles underlying such abnormalities. We wanted to test whether reward-based decision-making is a shared transdiagnostic feature of both disorders with similar neurofunctional substrates or whether it is a shared phenotype with disorder-differential neurofunctional underpinnings.
Age and IQ-matched boys with ASD (N = 20), with OCD (N = 20) and 20 healthy controls, performed an individually-adjusted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) TD task. Brain activation and performance were compared between groups.
Boys with ASD showed greater choice-impulsivity than OCD and control boys. Whole-brain between-group comparison revealed shared reductions in ASD and OCD relative to control boys for delayed-immediate choices in right ventromedial/lateral orbitofrontal cortex extending into medial/inferior prefrontal cortex, and in cerebellum, posterior cingulate and precuneus. For immediate-delayed choices, patients relative to controls showed reduced activation in anterior cingulate/ventromedial prefrontal cortex reaching into left caudate, which, at a trend level, was more decreased in ASD than OCD patients, and in bilateral temporal and inferior parietal regions.
This first fMRI comparison between youth with ASD and with OCD, using a reward-based decision-making task, shows predominantly shared neurofunctional abnormalities during TD in key ventromedial, orbital- and inferior fronto-striatal, temporo-parietal and cerebellar regions of temporal foresight and reward processing, suggesting trans-diagnostic neurofunctional deficits.
Serotonin is under-researched in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), despite accumulating evidence for its involvement in impulsiveness and the disorder. Serotonin further modulates temporal discounting (TD), which is typically abnormal in ADHD relative to healthy subjects, underpinned by reduced fronto-striato-limbic activation. This study tested whether a single acute dose of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine up-regulates and normalizes reduced fronto-striato-limbic neurofunctional activation in ADHD during TD.
Twelve boys with ADHD were scanned twice in a placebo-controlled randomized design under either fluoxetine (between 8 and 15 mg, titrated to weight) or placebo while performing an individually adjusted functional magnetic resonance imaging TD task. Twenty healthy controls were scanned once. Brain activation was compared in patients under either drug condition and compared to controls to test for normalization effects.
Repeated-measures whole-brain analysis in patients revealed significant up-regulation with fluoxetine in a large cluster comprising right inferior frontal cortex, insula, premotor cortex and basal ganglia, which further correlated trend-wise with TD performance, which was impaired relative to controls under placebo, but normalized under fluoxetine. Fluoxetine further down-regulated default mode areas of posterior cingulate and precuneus. Comparisons between controls and patients under either drug condition revealed normalization with fluoxetine in right premotor-insular-parietal activation, which was reduced in patients under placebo.
The findings show that a serotonin agonist up-regulates activation in typical ADHD dysfunctional areas in right inferior frontal cortex, insula and striatum as well as down-regulating default mode network regions in the context of impulsivity and TD.
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