The attenuation of dysfunctional emotional processing with stimulant medication: an fMRI study of adolescents with ADHD

Psychiatry Res. 2011 Sep 30;193(3):151-60. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2011.02.005. Epub 2011 Jul 22.


Functional neuroimaging studies of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have focused on the neural correlates of cognitive control. However, for many youths with ADHD, emotional lability is an important clinical feature of the disorder. We aimed to identify the neural substrates associated with emotional lability that were distinct from impairments in cognitive control and to assess the effects that stimulants have on those substrates. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess neural activity in adolescents with (N=15) and without (N=15) ADHD while they performed cognitive and emotional versions of the Stroop task that engage cognitive control and emotional processing, respectively. The participants with ADHD were scanned both on and off stimulant medication in a counterbalanced fashion. Controlling for differences in cognitive control, we found that during the emotional Stroop task, adolescents with ADHD as compared with controls demonstrated atypical activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Stimulants attenuated activity in the mPFC to levels comparable with controls.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affective Symptoms / drug therapy*
  • Affective Symptoms / etiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / pathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Oxygen