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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder, yet the search for definite genetic etiologies remains elusive. Delineating ASD endophenotypes can boost the statistical power to identify the genetic etiologies and pathophysiology of ASD. We aimed to test for endophenotypes of neuroanatomy and associated intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC) via contrasting male youth with ASD, their unaffected brothers and typically developing (TD) males.
The 94 participants (aged 9–19 years) – 20 male youth with ASD, 20 unaffected brothers and 54 TD males – received clinical assessments, and undertook structural and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scans. Voxel-based morphometry was performed to obtain regional gray and white matter volumes. A seed-based approach, with seeds defined by the regions demonstrating atypical neuroanatomy shared by youth with ASD and unaffected brothers, was implemented to derive iFC. General linear models were used to compare brain structures and iFC among the three groups. Assessment of familiality was investigated by permutation tests for variance of the within-family pair difference.
We found that atypical gray matter volume in the mid-cingulate cortex was shared between male youth with ASD and their unaffected brothers as compared with TD males. Moreover, reduced iFC between the mid-cingulate cortex and the right inferior frontal gyrus, and increased iFC between the mid-cingulate cortex and bilateral middle occipital gyrus were the shared features of male ASD youth and unaffected brothers.
Atypical neuroanatomy and iFC surrounding the mid-cingulate cortex may be a potential endophenotypic marker for ASD in males.
Methylphenidate and atomoxetine are commonly prescribed for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, their therapeutic neural mechanisms remain unclear.
After baseline evaluation including cognitive testing of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), drug-naive children with ADHD (n = 46), aged 7–17 years, were randomly assigned to a 12-week treatment with methylphenidate (n = 22) or atomoxetine (n = 24). Intrinsic brain activity, including the fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) and regional homogeneity (ReHo), was quantified via resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and week 12.
Reductions in inattentive symptoms were related to increased fALFF in the left superior temporal gyrus and left inferior parietal lobule for ADHD children treated with methylphenidate, and in the left lingual gyrus and left inferior occipital gyrus for ADHD children treated with atomoxetine. Hyperactivity/impulsivity symptom reductions were differentially related to increased fALFF in the methylphenidate group and to decreased fALFF in the atomoxetine group in bilateral precentral and postcentral gyri. Prediction analyses in the atomoxetine group revealed negative correlations between pre-treatment CANTAB simple reaction time and fALFF change in the left lingual gyrus and left inferior occipital gyrus, and positive correlations between pre-treatment CANTAB simple movement time and fALFF change in bilateral precentral and postcentral gyri and left precuneus, with a negative correlation between movement time and the fALFF change in the left lingual gyrus and the inferior occipital gyrus.
Our findings suggest differential neurophysiological mechanisms for the treatment effects of methylphenidate and atomoxetine in children with ADHD.
Impaired executive function (EF) is suggested to be one of the core features in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD); however, little is known about whether the extent of worse EF in ASD than typically developing (TD) controls is age-dependent. We used age-stratified analysis to reveal this issue.
We assessed 111 youths with ASD (aged 12.5 ± 2.8 years, male 94.6%) and 114 age-, and sex-matched TD controls with Digit Span and four EF tasks of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB): Spatial Span (SSP), Spatial Working Memory (SWM), Stockings of Cambridge (SOC), and Intradimensional/Extradimensional Shift Test (I/ED).
Compared to TD controls, youths with ASD performed poorer on the Digit Span, SWM, SOC, and I/ED tasks. The performance of all the tasks improved with age for both groups. Age-stratified analyses were conducted due to significant age × group interactions in visuospatial planning (SOC) and set-shifting (I/ED) and showed that poorer performance on these two tasks in ASD than TD controls was found only in the child (aged 8–12 years) rather than the adolescent (aged 13–18 years) group. By contrast, youths with ASD had impaired working memory, regardless of age. The increased magnitude of group difference in visuospatial planning (SOC) with increased task demands differed between the two age groups but no age moderating effect on spatial working memory.
Our findings support deficits in visuospatial working memory and planning in youths with ASD; however, worse performance in set-shifting may only be demonstrated in children with ASD.
The relationship between white-matter tracts and executive functions (EF) in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has not been well studied and previous studies mainly focused on frontostriatal (FS) tracts. The authors explored the microstructural property of several fibre tracts hypothesized to be involved in EF, to correlate their microstructural property with EF, and to explore whether such associations differ between ADHD and typically developing (TD) youths.
We assessed 45 youths with ADHD and 45 individually matched TD youths with a computerized test battery for multiple dimensions of EF. From magnetic resonance imaging, FS tract, superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), arcuate fasciculus (AF) and cingulum bundle (CB) were reconstructed by diffusion spectrum imaging tractography. The generalized fractional anisotropy (GFA) values of white-matter tracts were computed to present microstructural property of each tract.
We found lower GFA in the left FS tract, left SLF, left AF and right CB, and poorer performance in set-shifting, sustained attention, cognitive inhibition and visuospatial planning in ADHD than TD. The ADHD and TD groups demonstrated different association patterns between EF and fibre tract microstructural property. Most of the EF were associated with microstructural integrity of the FS tract and CB in TD youths, while with that of the FS tract, SLF and AF in youths with ADHD.
Our findings support that the SLF, AF and CB also involve in a wide range of EF and that the main fibre tracts involved in EF are different in youths with ADHD.
An uneven neurocognitive profile is a hallmark of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Studies focusing on the visual memory performance in ASD have shown controversial results. We investigated visual memory and sustained attention in youths with ASD and typically developing (TD) youths.
We recruited 143 pairs of youths with ASD (males 93.7%; mean age 13.1, s.d. 3.5 years) and age- and sex-matched TD youths. The ASD group consisted of 67 youths with autistic disorder (autism) and 76 with Asperger's disorder (AS) based on the DSM-IV criteria. They were assessed using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery involving the visual memory [spatial recognition memory (SRM), delayed matching to sample (DMS), paired associates learning (PAL)] and sustained attention (rapid visual information processing; RVP).
Youths with ASD performed significantly worse than TD youths on most of the tasks; the significance disappeared in the superior intelligence quotient (IQ) subgroup. The response latency on the tasks did not differ between the ASD and TD groups. Age had significant main effects on SRM, DMS, RVP and part of PAL tasks and had an interaction with diagnosis in DMS and RVP performance. There was no significant difference between autism and AS on visual tasks.
Our findings implied that youths with ASD had a wide range of visual memory and sustained attention impairment that was moderated by age and IQ, which supports temporal and frontal lobe dysfunction in ASD. The lack of difference between autism and AS implies that visual memory and sustained attention cannot distinguish these two ASD subtypes, which supports DSM-5 ASD criteria.
Despite evidence of inhibitory control and visual processing impairment in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), knowledge about its corresponding alterations in the brain is still evolving. The current study used counting Stroop functional MRI and the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) to investigate if brain activation of inhibitory control and visual processing would differ in youths with ADHD relative to neurotypical youths.
We assessed 25 youths with ADHD [mean age 10.9 (s.d. = 2.2) years] and 23 age-, gender- and IQ-matched neurotypical youths [mean age 11.2 (s.d. = 2.9) years]. The participants were assessed by using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, third edition, and two tests from the CANTAB: rapid visual information processing (RVP) and pattern recognition memory (PRM) outside the scanner.
Youths with ADHD showed more activation than neurotypical youths in the right inferior frontal gyrus [Brodmann area (BA) 45] and anterior cingulate cortex, which were correlated with poorer performance on the RVP test in the CANTAB. In contrast, youths with ADHD showed less activation than neurotypical youths in the left superior parietal lobule (BA 5/7), which was correlated with the percentage of correct responses on the PRM test in the CANTAB.
Our findings suggest that youths with ADHD might need more inhibitory control to suppress interference between number and meaning and may involve less visual processing to process the numbers in the counting Stroop task than neurotypical youths.
Increased intra-individual variability (IIV) in reaction time (RT) across various tasks is one ubiquitous neuropsychological finding in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, neurobiological underpinnings of IIV in individuals with ADHD have not yet been fully delineated. The ex-Gaussian distribution has been proved to capture IIV in RT. The authors explored the three parameters [μ (mu), σ (sigma), τ (tau)] of an ex-Gaussian RT distribution derived from the Conners' continuous performance test (CCPT) and their correlations with the microstructural integrity of the frontostriatal–caudate tracts and the cingulum bundles.
We assessed 28 youths with ADHD (8–17 years; 25 males) and 28 age-, sex-, IQ- and handedness-matched typically developing (TD) youths using the CCPT, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 3rd edition and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Microstructural integrity, indexed by generalized fractional anisotropy (GFA), was measured by diffusion spectrum imaging tractrography on a 3-T MRI system.
Youths with ADHD had larger σ (s.d. of Gaussian distribution) and τ (mean of exponential distribution) and reduced GFA in four bilateral frontostriatal tracts. With increased inter-stimulus intervals of CCPT, the magnitude of greater τ in ADHD than TD increased. In ADHD youths, the cingulum bundles and frontostriatal integrity were associated with three ex-Gaussian parameters and with μ (mean of Gaussian distribution) and τ, respectively; while only frontostriatal GFA was associated with μ and τ in TD youths.
Our findings suggest the crucial role of the integrity of the cingulum bundles in accounting for IIV in ADHD. Involvement of different brain systems in mediating IIV may relate to a distinctive pathophysiological processing and/or adaptive compensatory mechanism.
Deficits in sustained attention and reaction time are core features of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, little is known about attention performance in unaffected siblings. Hence, we examined sustained attention and reaction time in youths with ADHD, unaffected siblings and controls to test whether impaired performance in attention tasks can be a potential endophenotype of ADHD.
We recruited 438 probands with clinical diagnosis of ADHD according to DSM-IV criteria, 180 unaffected siblings, and 173 healthy controls without lifetime ADHD. They were assessed using psychiatric interviews, Conners’ Continuous Performance Test, and the tasks involving attention performance of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB): Rapid Visual Information Processing (RVP), Reaction Time (RTI) and Match to Sample Visual Search (MTS). Multi-level models were used for data analysis.
Compared with the controls, probands with ADHD and unaffected siblings had significantly higher total misses, lower probability of hits in the RVP task and probands with ADHD performed worse in the RTI and MTS tasks after controlling for sex, age, co-morbidity, parental educational levels and IQ. The duration of methylphenidate use and IQ but not psychiatric co-morbidity or current use of methylphenidate were associated with deficits in sustained attention in probands with ADHD.
Our findings suggest that attention performance assessed by the RVP task, but not the RTI or MTS tasks, of the CANTAB may be a useful cognitive endophenotype for ADHD genetic studies.
Few studies have prospectively examined psychosocial and psychiatric
predictors of adolescent substance use disorders simultaneously.
To identify psychosocial and psychiatric predictors of substance use
disorders in adolescence.
School children aged 12 years (s. d. =0. 3) free from any substance use
disorder at grade7(n=428) were assessed in three
consecutive years, using a standardised psychiatric interview. Their
baseline psychosocial information was also collected. The outcome was the
onset age of a substance use disorder. The Cox regression model was used
for data analysis.
The most significant predictive factors for adolescent substance use
disorder included male gender, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,
conduct disorder and sibling use of tobacco. Three protective factors
against such morbidity included living in a household with two parents, a
good academic grade at grade 7 and objection to the use of
Early intervention for disruptive behaviour disorders and specific
psychosocial risk factors might prevent substance use disorders in early
Few studies have systematically investigated the psychiatric antecedents of accidental death.
To examine the patterns of psychiatric morbidities contributing to accidental death in three ethnic groups (Han, Ami and Atayal) in Taiwan.
A case–control psychological autopsy was conducted among 90 accidental deaths (randomly selected from a total of 413) and 180 living controls matched for age, gender, ethnicity and area of residence in Taiwan.
The risk of accidental death was significantly associated with alcohol use disorder and with other common mental disorders. When jointly considered, it was greatest when these two types of disorders co-existed, followed by common mental disorders alone. The risk of accidental death increased with the number of comorbid conditions.
The prevention of accidental death should be incorporated into preventive psychiatry, not just for alcohol use disorder, but also for all other common mental disorders.