Background: Cognitive control, defined as the ability to suppress inappropriate thoughts and actions, is compromised in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study examines the neural basis of this deficit.
Methods: We used a paradigm that incorporates a parametric manipulation within a go/nogo task, so that the number of go trials preceding a nogo trial is varied to tax the neural systems underlying cognitive control with increasing levels of interference.
Results: Using this paradigm in combination with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we show that children without ADHD have increased susceptibility to interference with increasing numbers of go trials preceding a nogo trial, but children with ADHD have difficulty even with a single go trial preceding a nogo trial. In addition, children with ADHD do not activate frontostriatal regions in the same manner as normally developing children, but rather rely on a more diffuse network of regions, including more posterior and dorsolateral prefrontal regions.
Conclusions: Normal immature cognition may be characterized as being susceptible to interference and supported by the maturation of frontostriatal circuitry. ADHD children show a slightly different cognitive profile at 6 to 10 years of age that is paralleled by a relative lack of or delay in the maturation of ventral frontostriatal circuitry.