Hyperactivity/restlessness is associated with increased functional connectivity in adults with ADHD: a dimensional analysis of resting state fMRI

BMC Psychiatry. 2019 Jan 25;19(1):43. doi: 10.1186/s12888-019-2031-9.


Background: Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a serious and frequent psychiatric disorder of multifactorial pathogenesis. Several lines of evidence support the idea that ADHD is, in its core, a disorder of dysfunctional brain connectivity within and between several neurofunctional networks. The primary aim of this study was to investigate associations between the functional connectivity within resting state brain networks and the individual severity of core ADHD symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity).

Methods: Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) data of 38 methylphenidate-naïve adults with childhood-onset ADHD (20 women, mean age 40.5 years) were analyzed using independent component analysis (FSL's MELODIC) and FSL's dual regression technique. For motion correction, standard volume-realignment followed by independent component analysis-based automatic removal of motion artifacts (FSL's ICA-AROMA) were employed. To identify well-established brain networks, the independent components found in the ADHD group were correlated with brain networks previously found in healthy participants (Smith et al. PNAS 2009;106:13040-5). To investigate associations between functional connectivity and individual symptom severity, sex, and age, linear regressions were performed.

Results: Decomposition of resting state brain activity of adults with ADHD resulted in similar resting state networks as previously described for healthy adults. No significant differences in functional connectivity were seen between women and men. Advanced age was associated with decreased functional connectivity in parts of the bilateral cingulate and paracingulate cortex within the executive control network. More severe hyperactivity was associated with increased functional connectivity in the left putamen, right caudate nucleus, right central operculum and a portion of the right postcentral gyrus within the auditory/sensorimotor network.

Conclusions: The present study supports and extends our knowledge on the involvement of the striatum in the pathophysiology of ADHD, in particular, in the pathogenesis of hyperactivity. Our results emphasize the usefulness of dimensional analyses in the study of ADHD, a highly heterogeneous disorder.

Trial registration: ISRCTN12722296 ( https://doi.org/10.1186/ISRCTN12722296 ).

Keywords: ADHD; Adult; Age; Functional connectivity; Hyperactivity; Impulsivity; Inattention; Resting state fMRI.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnostic imaging*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / diagnostic imaging*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / physiopathology
  • Rest* / physiology
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN12722296