Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, but there is no consensus regarding whether ADHD exists on the extreme end of a continuum of normal behavior or represents a discrete disorder. In this study, we sought to characterize both the categorical and dimensional variations in network functional connectivity in order to identify neural connectivity mechanisms of ADHD. Functional connectivity analyses of resting-state fMRI data from 155 children with ADHD and 145 typically developing children (TDC) defined the dorsal attention network (DA), default mode network (DM), salience processing network (SAL) and executive control network (CON). Regional alterations in connectivity associated with categorical diagnoses and dimensional symptom measures (inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity) as well as their interaction were systematically characterized. Dimensional relationships between symptom severity measures and functional connectivity that did not differ between TDC and children with ADHD were observed for each network, supporting a dimensional characterization of ADHD. However, categorical differences in functional connectivity magnitude between TDC and children with ADHD were detected after accounting for dimensional relationships, indicating the existence of categorical mechanisms independent of dimensional effects. Additionally, differential dimensional relationships for TDC versus ADHD children demonstrated categorical differences in brain-behavior relationships. The patterns of network functional organization associated with categorical versus dimensional measures of ADHD accentuate the complexity of this disorder and support a dual characterization of ADHD etiology featuring both dimensional and categorical mechanisms.
Keywords: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; dimensional disorders, attention; functional neural networks; impulsivity; resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging.
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