Background: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is typically characterized by symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, but there is increased recognition of a motivation deficit too. This neuropathology may reflect dysfunction of both attention and reward-motivation networks.
Methods: To test this hypothesis, we compared the functional connectivity density between 247 ADHD and 304 typically developing control children from a public magnetic resonance imaging database. We quantified short- and long-range functional connectivity density in the brain using an ultrafast data-driven approach.
Results: Children with ADHD had lower connectivity (short- and long-range) in regions of the dorsal attention (superior parietal cortex) and default-mode (precuneus) networks and in cerebellum and higher connectivity (short-range) in reward-motivation regions (ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex) than control subjects. In ADHD children, the orbitofrontal cortex (region involved in salience attribution) had higher connectivity with reward-motivation regions (striatum and anterior cingulate) and lower connectivity with superior parietal cortex (region involved in attention processing).
Conclusions: The enhanced connectivity within reward-motivation regions and their decreased connectivity with regions from the default-mode and dorsal attention networks suggest impaired interactions between control and reward pathways in ADHD that might underlie attention and motivation deficits in ADHD.