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Whilst preterm-born individuals have an increased risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and are reported to have ADHD-like attention and arousal impairments, direct group comparisons are scarce.
We directly compared preterm-born adolescents (n = 186) to term-born adolescents with ADHD (n = 69), and term-born controls (n = 135), aged 11–23, on cognitive-performance, event-related potential and skin conductance level (SCL) measures associated with attention and arousal. The measures are from baseline and fast-incentive conditions of a four-choice reaction time task, previously shown to discriminate between the individuals with ADHD and controls. We aimed to establish whether preterm-born adolescents show: (a) identical cognitive-neurophysiological impairments to term-born adolescents with ADHD (b) possible additional impairments, and whether (c) the observed impairments correlate with ADHD symptom scores.
The preterm group, like the term-born ADHD group, showed increased mean reaction time (MRT) and reaction time variability (RTV) in the baseline condition, and attenuated contingent negative variation (CNV) amplitude (response preparation) in the fast-incentive condition. The preterm group, only, did not show significant within-group adjustments in P3 amplitude (attention allocation) and SCL (peripheral arousal). Dimensional analyses showed that ADHD symptoms scores correlated significantly with MRT, RTV and CNV amplitude only.
We find impairments in cognition and brain function in preterm-born adolescents that are linked to increased ADHD symptoms, as well as further impairments, in lack of malleability in neurophysiological processes. Our findings indicate that such impairments extend at least to adolescence. Future studies should extend these investigations into adulthood.
Resilience is the capacity of individuals to resist mental disorders despite exposure to stress. Little is known about its neural underpinnings. The putative variation of white-matter microstructure with resilience in adolescence, a critical period for brain maturation and onset of high-prevalence mental disorders, has not been assessed by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Lower fractional anisotropy (FA) though, has been reported in the corpus callosum (CC), the brain's largest white-matter structure, in psychiatric and stress-related conditions. We hypothesized that higher FA in the CC would characterize stress-resilient adolescents.
Three groups of adolescents recruited from the community were compared: resilient with low risk of mental disorder despite high exposure to lifetime stress (n = 55), at-risk of mental disorder exposed to the same level of stress (n = 68), and controls (n = 123). Personality was assessed by the NEO-Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). Voxelwise statistics of DTI values in CC were obtained using tract-based spatial statistics. Regional projections were identified by probabilistic tractography.
Higher FA values were detected in the anterior CC of resilient compared to both non-resilient and control adolescents. FA values varied according to resilience capacity. Seed regional changes in anterior CC projected onto anterior cingulate and frontal cortex. Neuroticism and three other NEO-FFI factor scores differentiated non-resilient participants from the other two groups.
High FA was detected in resilient adolescents in an anterior CC region projecting to frontal areas subserving cognitive resources. Psychiatric risk was associated with personality characteristics. Resilience in adolescence may be related to white-matter microstructure.
Patients with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibit difficulties in multiple attentional functions. Although high heritability rates suggest a strong genetic impact, aetiological pathways from genes and environmental factors to the ADHD phenotype are not well understood. Tracking the time course of deviant task processing using event-related electrophysiological brain activity should characterize the impact of familiality on the sequence of cognitive functions from preparation to response control in ADHD.
Preparation and response control were assessed using behavioural and electrophysiological parameters of two versions of a cued continuous performance test with varying attentional load in boys with ADHD combined type (n = 97), their non-affected siblings (n = 27) and control children without a family history of ADHD (n = 43).
Children with ADHD and non-affected siblings showed more variable performance and made more omission errors than controls. The preparatory Cue-P3 and contingent negative variation (CNV) following cues were reduced in both ADHD children and their non-affected siblings compared with controls. The NoGo-P3 was diminished in ADHD compared with controls whilst non-affected siblings were located intermediate but did not differ from both other groups. No clear familiality effects were found for the Go-P3. Better task performance was further associated with higher CNV and P3 amplitudes.
Impairments in performance and electrophysiological parameters reflecting preparatory processes and to some extend also for inhibitory response control, especially under high attentional load, appeared to be familially driven in ADHD and may thus constitute functionally relevant endophenotypes for the disorder.
Increased reaction time variability (RTV) on cognitive tasks requiring a speeded response is characteristic of several psychiatric disorders. In attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the association with RTV is strong phenotypically and genetically, yet high RTV is not a stable impairment but shows ADHD-sensitive improvement under certain conditions, such as those with rewards. The state regulation theory proposed that the RTV difference score, which captures change from baseline to a rewarded or fast condition, specifically measures ‘state regulation’. By contrast, the interpretation of RTV baseline (slow, unrewarded) scores is debated. We aimed to investigate directly the degree of phenotypic and etiological overlap between RTV baseline and RTV difference scores.
We conducted genetic model fitting analyses on go/no-go and fast task RTV data, across task conditions manipulating rewards and event rate, from a population-based twin sample (n=1314) and an ADHD and control sibling-pair sample (n=1265).
Phenotypic and genetic/familial correlations were consistently high (0.72–0.98) between RTV baseline and difference scores, across tasks, manipulations and samples. By contrast, correlations were low between RTV in the manipulated condition and difference scores. A comparison across two different go/no-go task RTV difference scores (slow-fast/slow-incentive) showed high phenotypic and genetic/familial overlap (r = 0.75–0.83).
Our finding that RTV difference scores measure largely the same etiological process as RTV under baseline condition supports theories emphasizing the malleability of the observed high RTV. Given the statistical shortcomings of difference scores, we recommend the use of RTV baseline scores for most analyses, including genetic analyses.
Twin and sibling studies have identified specific cognitive phenotypes that may mediate the association between genes and the clinical symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is also associated with lower IQ scores. We aimed to investigate whether the familial association between measures of cognitive performance and the clinical diagnosis of ADHD is mediated through shared familial influences with IQ.
Multivariate familial models were run on data from 1265 individuals aged 6–18 years, comprising 920 participants from ADHD sibling pairs and 345 control participants. Cognitive assessments included a four-choice reaction time (RT) task, a go/no-go task, a choice–delay task and an IQ assessment. The analyses focused on the cognitive variables of mean RT (MRT), RT variability (RTV), commission errors (CE), omission errors (OE) and choice impulsivity (CI).
Significant familial association (rF) was confirmed between cognitive performance and both ADHD (rF=0.41–0.71) and IQ (rF=−0.25 to −0.49). The association between ADHD and cognitive performance was largely independent (80–87%) of any contribution from etiological factors shared with IQ. The exception was for CI, where 49% of the overlap could be accounted for by the familial variance underlying IQ.
The aetiological factors underlying lower IQ in ADHD seem to be distinct from those between ADHD and RT/error measures. This suggests that lower IQ does not account for the key cognitive impairments observed in ADHD. The results have implications for molecular genetic studies designed to identify genes involved in ADHD.
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is frequently co-occurring with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents. Because ODD is a precursor of later conduct disorder (CD) and affective disorders, early diagnostic identification is warranted. Furthermore, the predictability of three recently confirmed ODD dimensions (ODD-irritable, ODD-headstrong and ODD-hurtful) may assist clinical decision making.
Receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used in order to test the diagnostic accuracy of the Conners' Parent Rating Scale revised (CPRS-R) and the parent version of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (PSDQ) in the prediction of ODD in a transnational sample of 1093 subjects aged 5–17 years from the International Multicentre ADHD Genetics study. In a second step, the prediction of three ODD dimensions by the same parent rating scales was assessed by backward linear regression analyses.
ROC analyses showed adequate diagnostic accuracy of the CPRS-R and the PSDQ in predicting ODD in this ADHD sample. Furthermore, the three-dimensional structure of ODD was confirmed by confirmatory factor analysis and the CPRS-R emotional lability scale significantly predicted the ODD irritable dimension.
The PSDQ and the CPRS-R are both suitable screening instruments in the identification of ODD. The emotional lability scale of the CPRS-R is an adequate predictor of irritability in youth referred for ADHD.
Detecting genetic factors involved in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is complicated because of their small effect sizes and complex interactions. The endophenotype approach eases this by coming closer to the relevant genes. Different aspects of temporal information processing are known to be affected in ADHD. Thus, some of these aspects could represent candidate endophenotypes for ADHD.
Fifty-four sib-pairs with at least one child with ADHD and 40 control children aged 6–18 years were recruited and asked to perform two duration discrimination tasks, one with a base duration of 50 ms on automatic timing and one with a base duration of 1000 ms on cognitively controlled timing.
Whereas children with ADHD, but not their unaffected siblings, were impaired in discrimination of longer intervals, both groups were impaired in discriminating brief intervals. Furthermore, a significant within-family correlation was found for discrimination of brief intervals. Task performances of subjects of the control group correlated with individual levels of hyperactivity/impulsivity for discrimination of brief intervals, but not of longer intervals.
Cognitively controlled and also automatic processes of temporal information processing are impaired in children with ADHD. Discrimination of longer intervals appears as a typical ‘disease marker’ whereas discrimination of brief intervals shows up as a ‘vulnerability marker’. Discrimination of brief intervals was found to be familial and linked to levels of hyperactivity/impulsivity. Taken together, discrimination of brief intervals represents a candidate endophenotype of ADHD.
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