Neuroimaging in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: beyond the frontostriatal circuitry

Can J Psychiatry. 2009 Oct;54(10):651-64. doi: 10.1177/070674370905401002.


Objectives: To review the findings of structural and functional neuroimaging studies in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with a focus on abnormalities reported in brain regions that lie outside the frontostriatal circuitry, which is currently believed to play a central role in the pathophysiology of ADHD.

Methods: Relevant publications were found primarily by searching the MEDLINE and PubMed databases using the keywords ADHD and the abbreviations of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional MRI, positron emission tomography, and single photon emission computed tomography. The reference lists of the articles found through the databases were then reviewed for the purpose of finding additional articles.

Results: There is now substantial evidence of structural and functional alterations in regions outside the frontostriatal circuitry in ADHD, most notably in the cerebellum and the parietal lobes.

Conclusions: Although there is compelling evidence suggesting that frontostriatal dysfunction may be central to the pathophysiology of ADHD, the neuroimaging findings point to distributed neural substrates rather than a single one. More research is needed to elucidate the nature of contributions of nonfrontostriatal regions to the pathophysiology of ADHD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention / physiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / pathology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Luria-Nebraska Neuropsychological Battery
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / pathology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Parietal Lobe / pathology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*