Objective: Previous studies have shown smaller brain volume and less gray matter in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Relatively few morphological studies have examined structures thought to subserve inhibitory control, one of the diagnostic features of ADHD. We examined one such region, the pars opercularis, predicting a thinner cortex of the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) in children with ADHD.
Method: Structural images were obtained from 49 children (24 control; 25 ADHD combined subtype) aged 9 though 15 years. Images were processed using a volumetric pipeline to provide a fully automated estimate of regional volumes of gray and white matter. A further analysis using FreeSurfer provided measures of cortical thickness for each lobe, and for 13 regions in the frontal lobe.
Results: Relative to controls, children with ADHD had smaller whole brain volume and lower gray matter, but not white matter, volumes in all lobes. An analysis of frontal regions showed a significant interaction of group by region. Planned contrasts showed bilateral thinner cortex in the pars opercularis in children with ADHD.
Conclusions: Children with ADHD showed both diffuse and regional gray matter abnormalities. Consistent with its putative role in response inhibition, the cortex of the pars opercularis was thinner in children with ADHD who, as expected, had significantly poorer inhibitory performance on a Go/No-go task. These differences held for both hemispheres raising the possibility that a developmental abnormality of IFG might drive development of inhibition difficulties.