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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.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are often co-morbid and share performance and brain dysfunctions during working memory (WM). Serotonin agonists modulate WM and there is evidence of positive behavioural effects in both disorders. We therefore used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate shared and disorder-specific brain dysfunctions of WM in these disorders, and the effects of a single dose of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine.
Age-matched boys with ADHD (n = 17), ASD (n = 17) and controls (n = 22) were compared using fMRI during an N-back WM task. Patients were scanned twice, under either an acute dose of fluoxetine or placebo in a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized design. Repeated-measures analyses within patients assessed drug effects on performance and brain function. To test for normalization effects of brain dysfunctions, patients under each drug condition were compared to controls.
Under placebo, relative to controls, both ADHD and ASD boys shared underactivation in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Fluoxetine significantly normalized the DLPFC underactivation in ASD relative to controls whereas it increased posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) deactivation in ADHD relative to control boys. Within-patient analyses showed inverse effects of fluoxetine on PCC deactivation, which it enhanced in ADHD and decreased in ASD.
The findings show that fluoxetine modulates brain activation during WM in a disorder-specific manner by normalizing task-positive DLPFC dysfunction in ASD boys and enhancing task-negative default mode network (DMN) deactivation in ADHD.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are two common childhood disorders that exhibit genetic and behavioural overlap and have abnormalities in similar brain systems, in particular in frontal and cerebellar regions. This study compared the two neurodevelopmental disorders to investigate shared and disorder-specific structural brain abnormalities.
Forty-four predominantly medication-naïve male adolescents with ADHD, 19 medication-naïve male adolescents with ASD and 33 age-matched healthy male controls were scanned using high-resolution T1-weighted volumetric imaging in a 3-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to test for group-level differences in structural grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volumes.
There was a significant group difference in the GM of the right posterior cerebellum and left middle/superior temporal gyrus (MTG/STG). Post-hoc analyses revealed that this was due to ADHD boys having a significantly smaller right posterior cerebellar GM volume compared to healthy controls and ASD boys, who did not differ from each other. ASD boys had a larger left MTG/STG GM volume relative to healthy controls and at a more lenient threshold relative to ADHD boys.
The study shows for the first time that the GM reduction in the cerebellum in ADHD is disorder specific relative to ASD whereas GM enlargement in the MTG/STG in ASD may be disorder specific relative to ADHD. This study is a first step towards elucidating disorder-specific structural biomarkers for these two related childhood disorders.
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