Topological organization of the "small-world" visual attention network in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Mar 20:8:162. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00162. eCollection 2014.


Background: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed childhood psychiatric disorder. Disrupted sustained attention is one of the most significant behavioral impairments in this disorder. We mapped systems-level topological properties of the neural network responsible for sustained attention during a visual sustained task, on the premise that strong associations between anomalies in network features and clinical measures of ADHD would emerge.

Methods: Graph theoretic techniques (GTT) and bivariate network-based statistics (NBS) were applied to fMRI data from 22 children with ADHD combined-type and 22 age-matched neurotypicals, to evaluate the topological and nodal-pairing features in the functional brain networks. Correlation testing for relationships between network properties and clinical measures were then performed.

Results: The visual attention network showed significantly reduced local-efficiency and nodal-efficiency in frontal and occipital regions in ADHD. Measures of degree and between-centrality pointed to hyper-functioning in anterior cingulate cortex and hypo-functioning in orbito-frontal, middle-occipital, superior-temporal, supra-central, and supra-marginal gyri in ADHD. NBS demonstrated significantly reduced pair-wise connectivity in an inner-network, encompassing right parietal and temporal lobes and left occipital lobe, in the ADHD group.

Conclusions: These data suggest that atypical topological features of the visual attention network contribute to classic ADHD symptomatology, and may underlie the inattentiveness and hyperactivity/impulsivity that are characteristics of this syndrome.

Keywords: ADHD; Attention; fMRI; functional connectivity; graph theoretic techniques; network-based statistic; small world network.